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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Micah Johnson, director of school outreach at Time Out Youth Center, 2320-A N. Davidson St., has called upon the community to contact its U.S. representatives and senators to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA). They join other LGBT-affirming groups collectively raising their voices in support of safe schools for all students. March 31 is the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the bill’s current version.

This piece of legislation was introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez in the U.S. House and Sens. Bob Casey and Mark Kirk in the U.S. Senate. It provides for improvements in school safety across the country by including several key provisions, including requiring local educational agencies to “establish policies that prevent and prohibit conduct, including bullying and harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion and the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion of a person with whom a student associates or has associated.” The act also includes a provision requiring annual notice to students, parents and educators regarding prohibited conduct and grievance procedures for students or parents to register complaints. The full text of the bill is available online at beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/403/cosponsors.

North Carolina represents only a small contingency of states that have included anti-bullying designations with the 2009 passage of the School Violence Prevention Act. It covers sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, among other characteristics. It provides a vehicle for reporting data at both state and federal levels for evaluation and review.

Time Out has created letter templates for both the Senate and the House of Representatives. They are available online.

At press time, the SSIA has support of 43 co-sponsors in the Senate and 183 co-sponsors in the House. Several North Carolinian Congress members have yet to buy in. TOYC is encouraging everyone to contact their respective legislators to ask them to be part of this important initiative.

The following House of Representative members from across the state who have not co-sponsored the bill are: G.K. Butterfield (D-Dist. 1); Renee Ellmers (R-Dist. 2); Walter Jones (R-Dist. 3); David Price (D-Dist. 4); Virginia Foxx (R-Dist. 5); Howard Cobble (R-Dist. 6); Mike McIntyre (D-Dist. 7); Richard Hudson (R-Dist. 8); Robert Pittenger (R-Dist. 9); Patrick McHenry (R-Dist. 10); Mark Meadows (R-Dist. 11); and George Holding (R-Dist. 13). The district 12 seat previously held by Mel Watt is vacant. In the Senate, Sen. Richard Burr (R) has not co-sponsored, but Sen. Kay Hagan (D) has.

For contact information on representatives, visit house.gov and for senators, visit senate.gov.

info: For more information, visit timeoutyouth.org. Draft letter for the U.S. House can be accessed at bit.ly/1iUyHAU and the Senate letter at bit.ly/1nTYnCh.

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Does your organization or special interest group have events or great information to share with our readers? If so, be sure to send in your information to specialassignments@goqnotes.com. In the upcoming months, we’ll feature one of you in our news notes section in each issue. Are you a part of a Meetup, Yahoo or Google group and do you do something that’s really newsworthy? Do you provide a service for the community or hold fundraisers for worthy causes? Do you educate the public about LGBT issues or concerns? Of course, this is only a sampling of things we are interested in. It’s the aim of these pieces to inform, enlighten and educate our readers about what we’re doing here in the Carolinas to champion LGBT rights, as well as offer resources for those who may be interested in what your group is doing.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' former associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director.