WASHINGTON (WCCO) — Sen. Al Franken announced his intention to seek legislation that would curb anti-gay bullying in schools.
Franken (D-MN) announced the plan at a press conference in Washington Thursday while joined by Tammy Aaberg, whose 15-year-old son Justin Aaberg, a student in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, hanged himself in his room in July.
His friends told Tammy Aaberg he had been a frequent victim of anti-gay bullying.
Franken said his plan, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, would be part of the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act set to go before Congress next year. He cited Justin Aaberg’s suicide as one in a disturbing trend.
“No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied,” said Sen. Franken. “It’s clear that we need to do more to ensure schools are a safe environment for all students. Ending this bullying and harassment in schools will be a priority for education reform in the next Congress.”
The bill would establish a federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation, real or perceived, as well as gender identity.
Franken was joined by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and others at the press conference to speak about repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibits openly gay soldiers to serve U.S. Military.
Later, Franken admitted his proposal does not have the support of any Republican. He believes that could change in the future.
“I’ve had some who, through their staff, said that if another Republican signs on, we’d be happy to sign on,” Franken later said in an interview with WCCO radio.
Franken was asked whether this issue is already addressed by existing federal anti-discrimination laws.
“No, it isn’t,” he said. “You’d think it would be.”
Al Franken Interview on the Student Non-Discrimination Act