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Tyler Clementi Act Introduced Into Congress, Includes Cyberbullying

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Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University, student leapt to his death this week after his college roommate filmed him having sex with another male student and broadcast it on the Internet. Now new legislation has been introduced in his name.

CREDIT: Facebook / Tyler Clementi

New legislation introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives will finally mandate anti-harassment policies on college campuses.

Introduced last Thursday by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), the “Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act” [PDF], would require that all colleges and universities that receive federal aid to establish institutional policies that “prohibit[s] harassment of students based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.” Along with ensuring that specific information on the respective policies is distributed campus-wide, the act would require that cyberbulling be recognized as a form of harassment and provide funding for institutions to continue with or begin their own anti-harassment programs.

The measure is named in honor of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a college freshman at Rutgers University who committed suicide on Sept. 22 after two fellow students used a webcam to secretly videotape him during a sexual encounter with another male student and stream it over the Internet.

In a press release Holt said,“In the wake of the Tyler Clementi tragedy, we should help colleges across the nation strengthen their anti-harassment programs and make campuses a more positive and safe atmosphere. I thank Tyler’s family for their inspiring work to advance anti-harassment efforts and benefit students nationwide.”

Campus Pride, a national nonprofit organization that works with college campuses to establish safer environments for LGBTQ students, released a groundbreaking report on college campuses just nine days before Clementi took his life.

Titled the "The 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People" [PDF], the survey documented the experiences students, faculty, staff and administrators at colleges and universities around the country. They found "significant harassment of LGBT students and a lack of safety and inclusiveness.”

Campus Pride has established itself as a strong force in the movement for LGBTQ equality across all spectrums, especially when it comes to higher learning institutions and continues to push for legislation that is an embodiment of that mission, much like the Tyler Clementi Act.

In conjunction with Campus Progress and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Campus Pride presented the report on Capitol Hill in September in a measure to push for certain strategy initiatives and proposals outlined in the report.

“A lot of times, people believe that the issue of bullying is limited to only the experiences of high school students and when you get to college, things get better and you’re in this space of acceptance and tolerance,” says Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. “But it doesn’t get better."

Windmeyer says that the proposed measure will certainly have a positive impact on getting colleges and universities to address the issue of LGBTQ harassment and discrimination while providing campuses with campus safety and inclusion measures.

Still, he and many others know there is still a long way to go.

“This act is a bold step for Congress and our nation’s colleges to create that welcoming space, but we really have to make sure that programs that further acceptance and have the ability to actualize a climate that is safe and welcoming for everyone are actually implemented,” Windmeyer says. “For a number of years Campus Pride has worked to push past obstacles through our programs and resources online, our Stop the Hate campaign and our Summer Leadership Camp—all in the name of creating policies to address this issue.”

Jessica Strong is a staff writer for Campus Progress.

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