Bullying Is Not a Rite of Passage—Theme of White House LGBT Safe Schools Conference

With the goal of empowering and informing advocates on the ground about the federal resources available to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community, White House officials joined federal and local partners at the first LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities on March 20th at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Over 400 attendees participated in sessions led by community organizations, the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services and the FBI. Topics ranged from civil rights and cyber bullying to family acceptance, domestic violence and safety and inclusion on college campuses.

Acknowledging the fear of reporting crimes and harassment in the LGBT community, Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said, “We will do everything we can to keep you safe.”  He noted how important it is to build relationships with the school, school security and the police, as well as LGBT community liaisons.

Michael Yudin and Judy Shepard

Michael Yudin meets Judy Shepard. Her son Matthew, a student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally murdered because he was gay. He is the inspiration for the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the group with a video message, saying when students are harassed or bullied it directly affects their work in the classroom and their desire to stay in school.

“These are serious, serious problems at schools and colleges, especially for LGBT youth,” he said, adding that we must dispel the myth that bullying is a normal rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.  “We have a collective obligation to ensure that all schools are safe for all children. Every single student deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential without the threat or reality of harassment.”

ED’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin said to the participants that the measure of success for all students is that they are on track to graduate high school ready to succeed in college or a career, but “we cannot get there if they don’t feel safe.” He added, “Our job is to ensure that schools are proactive in their approach to provide a safe, welcoming environment to learn for all kids.”

According to a study conducted over 10 years, 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment in school. Moreover, students with LGBT parents may not feel that their parents are welcome at school activities. Additionally, those students who do not conform to what are considered gender norms are more prone to being bullied. Geographically, LGBT students in the Midwest and South are more likely to be bullied than students in other regions.

Yudin outlined resources at www.stopbullying.gov and technical assistance available for schools, as well as the department’s guidance to schools for LGBT issues. The Centers for Disease Control of the Department of Health and Human Services also provides resources for the LGBT community. ED is currently working with the Department of Health and Human Services on a common definition of bullying.

–Helen Littlejohn is the Director for Communications and Outreach for the Western States, based in the Denver Regional Office

Top 5 Ways Educators Can Stop Bullies

A new documentary film, “BULLY,” follows several students to show how bullying happens in schools—and how educators often struggle to put a stop to it. A safe and supportive school climate can be one of the best tools in preventing bullying. Whether it’s the classroom, the cafeteria, the library, the restrooms, on the bus, or on the playground, children need to feel safe—or they can’t focus on learning. Working together, everyone at school can help create a climate where bullying is not acceptable.

StopBullying.gov LogoBelow are five tips to help teachers, administrators and other school personnel prevent bullying from occurring in school, as well as how to respond when it happens. The information comes from the recently re-launched federal website www.StopBullying.gov. Visit the new site for even more valuable resources for teachers, parents and students.

1. Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Establish a culture of inclusion and respect that welcomes all students Monitor bullying “hot spots” in and around the building. Set a tone of respect in the classroom.

2. Manage Classrooms to Prevent Bullying

Develop rules with students so they set their own climate of respect and responsibility, and reinforce the rules by making expectations clear and keeping requests simple, direct and specific.

3. Stop Bullying on the Spot

Intervene immediately. It’s OK to get another adult to help. Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately, and don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

4. Find Out What Happened

Get the facts, keep all the children involved separate, listen without blaming and don’t call the act “bullying” while you are trying to understand what happened.

5. Support the Kids Involved

All kids involved in bullying—whether they are bullied, bully others, or see bullying—can be affected. It is important to support all kids involved to make sure the bullying doesn’t continue and effects can be minimized.

Watch Secretary Duncan announce the new StopBullying.gov, and visit the site for other great tips.

Cameron Brenchley is Director of Digital Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education

Announcing the New StopBullying.gov

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently unveiled the revitalized Stop Bullying website www.stopbullying.gov.

The site encourages children, parents, educators, and communities to take action to stop and prevent bullying, and provides a map with detailed information on state laws and policies, interactive webisodes and videos for young people, practical strategies for schools and communities to ensure safe environments, and suggestions on how parents can talk about this sensitive subject with their children. The site also explores the dangers of cyberbullying and steps youngsters and parents can take to fight it.

Watch Secretary Duncan announce the new site, and follow StopBullying.Gov on Twitter and Facebook for more information on how to take action to stop bullying.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

A Special Message on National Gay-Straight Alliance Day

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken many steps to ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

Bullying is an epidemic that has gone ignored for too long, and far too many of our young people are targeted and harassed based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  But across the country, Gay-Straight Alliances and other similar student groups are taking important steps to address these issues.

Last year, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and others welcomed students, parents, and teachers in addition to non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers to the White House for a Conference on Bullying Prevention.  Also last year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote a “Dear Colleague” letter to school districts across the country in support of Gay-Straight Alliances.  And today, on the occasion of the first-ever National Gay-Straight Alliance Day, Secretary Duncan has taped a video message to students, teachers, and allies to re-emphasize the Obama Administration’s commitment to safe schools for all students.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Take a look at Secretary Duncan’s video message, and then check out the following:

Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the White House’s Office of Public Engagement.

Bullying Isn’t Just “Kids Being Kids”

StopBullying.gov logoLater today, Secretary Duncan will join President and First Lady Obama for a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.  As a parent, student, or educator, you may be asking yourself “why is so much attention being paid to bullying, isn’t bullying just part of growing up?”  The fact is that for too long, bullying has been dismissed as “kids being kids.”  Yet, bullying is a serious problem that not only affects a child’s self esteem and emotional well-being, but can significantly affect a child’s ability to learn.

At a Bullying Prevention Summit last fall, Secretary Duncan explained that a great school needs to be a safe school and that “every child is entitled to a quality education and no child can get a quality education if they don’t first feel safe at school.” The Secretary noted that all of us need to do our part to prevent bullying whether we are students, teachers, school staff, parents, or concerned citizens.  By working together, we have the chance to truly make a difference, while creating safe and inviting learning environments.

You can watch today’s White House Conference on Bullying Prevention live by visiting the whitehouse.gov/live website.

For more information on bullying prevention, visit www.StopBullying.gov or become a fan of www.Facebook.com/StopBullying.gov