Robert Menendez

US Senator for New Jersey
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Menendez Meets with Advocates for School Safety

Discuss Importance of Acceptance for Gay, Lesbian Youth

March 27, 2012

Washington – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today met with Samuel Garrett of Florham Park, an intern with Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Ramon Robles-Fernandez of Bound Brook to discuss school safety, including the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. GLSEN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students while Mr. Robles-Fernandez is a teacher at Columbia High School and a professor at Montclair State University. The two were interested in meeting with Senator Menendez because of his leadership in the effort to end bullying in schools.

 “It was an honor to meet with two individuals today who are making such an impact in the lives of others,” said Senator Menendez. “Growing up is hard enough without having to worry about being tormented for your sexual orientation. No student should feel unsafe; no student should have to be afraid to go to school. The GLSEN is helping to educate our youth on acceptance and respect, two lessons of paramount importance. Mr. Robles-Fernandez is a teacher making a legitimate difference in the lives of his students, providing them support and mentorship. I respect both tremendously.”

Samuel Garrett, who is interning with GLSEN, attends George Washington University and is originally from Florham Park. Established in 1990, GLSEN promotes a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.  GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more lively and diverse community.    

Ramon Robles-Fernandez is a Gay Straight Alliance advisor at Columbia High School in South Orange Maplewood School District. Robles-Fernandez, of Bound Brook, is in Washington for GLSEN’s Safe Schools Advocacy Summit where 42 leaders are in a training program to advocate for safe schools legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

Legislative Issues and Background on Non-Discrimination for Students

  • S. 506, Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA): SSIA would require school districts that receive federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, nationality, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.  Currently, there are 39 cosponsors, including Senator Menendez.  This bill was introduced by Senator Casey on March 8, 2011. It has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).
  • S. 555, Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA): SNDA would prohibit public school students from discrimination in any federally-assisted education program on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  Currently, this bill has 37 cosponsors, including Senator Menendez.  This bill was introduced by Senator Franken on March 10, 2011 and Menendez is an original cosponsor.  It has been referred to the HELP Committee.
  • S. 540, Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act: This bill would protect college students from harassment and cyberbullying and ensure they have some place to turn should an incident of harassment take place by providing funding for schools to establish or expand programs that help to prevent student harassment.  The legislation is named in honor of Tyler Clementi, an 18 year-old freshman at Rutgers University who took his life in September 2010 after his roommate and another student harassed him and violated his privacy over the Internet.  This bill was introduced by Senator Lautenberg on March 10, 2011 and Menendez is an original cosponsor.  It has been referred to the HELP Committee.

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