Bill Title: County Boards and Public and Nonpublic Prekindergarten Programs and Schools – Discrimination – Prohibition
Bill Number(s): HB0155 and SB0098
Bill Sponsor(s): Delegate Jheanelle K. Wilkins (D-20, Montgomery County) and Senator Cory V. McCray (D-45, Baltimore City)
Legislative History: Passed the House, Received in Judicial Proceedings Committee in Senate
What would this bill do?
The Student Equal Rights Protection Act will codify anti-discrimination protections for all students, Pre-K-12 who are enrolled in our public schools and in schools receiving public funding. It prohibits retaliation against a student, parent, or guardian who files a complaint of discrimination. This legislation establishes a complaint and remedy process by which a student and/or their family can work with MSDE to resolve the discriminatory action. The bill also requires school boards and schools to develop written policies for schools, employees and students regarding civil rights protections
Why is this bill needed?
Unlike other parts of Maryland law such as public accommodations, employment, and fair housing, Maryland’s education laws do not have codified anti-discrimination protections. MSDE does have stated guidance, but the guidance does not provide the legal protections of a codified anti-discrimination policy. This legislation simply codifies the MSDE guidance. While federal law protects some students from discrimination, it only prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, language, sex, religion, and disability. Marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly covered. In addition to ensuring public schools do not discriminate, Maryland law also needs to ensure that private schools that receive state funding such as BOOST vouchers are not allowed to discriminate. Students attending these schools on publicly-funded vouchers are only protected by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which is limited to prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, and national origin. Lastly, students who experience discrimination do not currently have a clear process by which they can file a complaint or seek a remedy. By requiring schools to have clear policies on discrimination, as they do for student codes of conduct, students will know how to file a complaint and resolve the discriminatory action.
Senate Members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee
My name is _________ and I live in _______. I am calling/emailing in support of SB0098. This bill would enshrine the Maryland State Department of Education’s existing non-discrimination guidance for LGBTQ students into law. This law is crucial in providing students with a safe, affirming and inclusive environment to learn and express themselves without fear of violence, discrimination or retaliation. Currently, LGBTQ students are more likely to experience discrimination and harassment in schools with catastrophic consequences: according to the CDC, LGBT students commit suicide at a rate five times higher than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. This law would force schools to explicitly develop policies to protect LGBTQ students and provide pathways to file complaints and resolve cases of discrimination. We believe that our schools should be safe, healthy and supportive environments so that all students can learn and succeed. This law brings us one step closer towards realizing this value.
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