25 April, 2011

Bullies--No Joking Matter

On March 10th, the White House hosted a conference on “Bullying Prevention,” including remarks by President Obama and the First Lady.

“Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people,” President Obama said. “And it’s not something we have to accept. As parents and students, teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe.”

The White House also unveiled a new website, http://www.stopbullying.gov that includes tips, resources and help for teens, young adults, parents and educators.

What is one of the primary themes for bullies? Many children are bullied over gender identity issues and sexual orientation.

The conference also marked the reintroduction of anti-bullying and nondiscrimination legislation in Congress. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reintroduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. Also, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which would require higher education institutions receiving Federal student aid to develop bullying policies that draw specific attention to harassment fueled by bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics.

“The alarming increase in teen suicides has shown us just how far we are from making our children’s schools safe spaces,” Polis said. “We must take action to protect the safety of our students and enshrine the values of equality and opportunity in our classrooms. My legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers so they can attend school and get a quality education free from fear.”

Statistics continue to show that LGBT youths have a much higher school dropout and suicide rates than other teens—as well as frequently being the targets of violent and persistent school bullying.

All of us are different—but most of us are not required to defend our differences on the playground, in class or at Sunday school. Most of us can conduct our lives in freedom. Let’s make sure that all of our children can enjoy this same freedom. Education is a right for all children in America. Let’s make sure that schools and churches can provide this education in an environment of encouragement and safety.

For more information and a wealth of tools for parents, educators and clergy, go online to: http://www.stopbullying.gov.

Rev. Larry King, Senior Minister

Portland Center for Spiritual Living

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