WASHINGTON – Bullying received nationwide attention Thursday as teachers,parents,students and community leaders came together to combat the issue at the first White House conference on bullying prevention.
President Barack Obama said bullying leads to students missing school and poor performance in the classroom. He said failing to address bullying will put young people at a disadvantage.
“If there’s one goal of this conference,it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” Obama said.
Obama said that nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year – upwards of 13 million students.
Studies indicate that children and teens involved in bullying are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and to have health and mental health issues.
Several families talked about teenagers who committed suicide after being bullied. One young woman said her brother committed suicide after being taunted about his sexual orientation.
Approximately 150 participants,including students,parents,teachers,nonprofit leaders,advocates and policymakers broke into groups to talk with experts about effective programs and policies to prevent bullying and how they can make schools and communities safe for all students.
They also identified major challenges,including how school systems address the issue of bullying and that it should be a nationwide effort. One problem is that students who get bullied often do not report it to parents or teachers. Another is that parents need to know how to deal with children who are bullies or victims of bullies.
“Psychologically speaking,there are serious consequences for children who get bullied,” said Susan M. Swearer,an associate professor in the School Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “There are complex dynamics involved with the issue of bullying. We hope to come out of these complexities with the understanding that will help us create effective strategies to prevent bullying.”
The conference highlighted several programs that are already in place or soon will be. A government website provides advice to victims,parents and educators.
As part of MTV’s A Thin Line campaign,the network will launch a new anti-digital discrimination coalition to fight bullying and intolerance.
Facebook will unveil two new safety features in the coming weeks: a multimedia center to provide resources and advice and a way for bullying victims to block people who have bullied them through Facebook.
The American Federation of Teachers is preparing to launch a national bullying campaign,“See a Bully,Stop a Bully,Make a Difference,” focused on raising bullying awareness and providing resources,training and technical assistance for leaders and members.
Early in the Obama administration,six federal agencies,including the departments of Education and Health and Human Services,joined to establish the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee to explore ways to provide guidance for individuals and organizations in combating bullying.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that his department is establishing a new technical center to address bullying. “I am confident that we’ll make progress in our efforts to combat the issue of bullying,” Duncan said. “It is time to say enough is enough.”