Dems Introduce Anti-Harassment Bill on Anniversary of Gay Student Tyler Clementi's Death

Democrats in the Senate and the House introduced a bill addressing bullying and harassment of LGBTQ college students on the 11th anniversary of Tyler Clementi's death.

Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, along with Representative Mark Pocan, also of Wisconsin, presented the legislation which would require colleges and universities that receive federal funding to pass policies dedicated to ending harassment and bullying of minority identities like sexual orientation and gender.

If passed, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act would require higher education institutions to establish policies that prohibit harassment of enrolled students by classmates, faculty and staff based on race, color, national origin, disability, and religion, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The bill would classify cyberbullying as harassment, too.

Competitive grants will also be offered to schools as incentives for developing anti-bullying programs, providing counseling services or training through the Department of Education.

"No student should live in fear of being who they are at school," Baldwin said in a statement. "By reintroducing this legislation, we are taking a strong step forward in not only preventing harassment on campus, but also making sure our students have the freedom to learn and succeed in safe and healthy environments. Everyone at our colleges and universities deserves to pursue their dreams free of harassment and bullying."

Students pay their respects on October 1
Above, Rutgers students pay their respects on October 1, 2010, to Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman who died by suicide after his roommate secretly live streamed their date. Eleven years after his death, Democrats introduced legislation to prevent bullying at universities. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images

The legislation was named for Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman who attended Rutgers University in the fall of 2010. Clementi was in his dorm room with a male student when his roommate began to livestream their private date without Clementi's knowledge.

The recording was posted on Twitter and Clementi's roommate planned to record another interaction. Days after the first recording was posted, Clementi died by suicide on September 22, 2010.

Shortly after the student's death, Democrats first introduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act. It was introduced again by Pocan in the House and Murray and Baldwin in the Senate in May 2019. Now it's been reintroduced in the 117th Congress.

"Today we honor the life of Tyler Clementi by reintroducing this critical legislation. No one should be bullied because of who they are or who they love," Pocan said. "This bill will help ensure that students can learn in peace and not have to worry about living in fear or humiliation for being themselves."

Tyler Clementi's mother, Jane Clementi, said she's grateful that the bill is being introduced again, and this time it has 26 co-sponsors in the Senate, according to LGBTQ Nation.

"We believe all institutions of higher education should have policies to keep all their students safe," she said, "because every student deserves a positive educational experience in a safe environment free of harassment, bullying, or humiliation."

On the 10th anniversary of Clementi's death, Rutgers University honored the student, acknowledging his time there was "tragically short" but his legacy has been long-lasting.

"His death sparked a national conversation about sexuality, cyber-harassment, safety, and inclusion within and beyond college campuses. Clementi's story moved Rutgers and the nation to confront the ways that bias and bullying can affect campus communities, especially LGBTQA students, and has reshaped the support universities provide for students," the university said on its website.

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours every day.