Congress takes new anti-bullying laws seriously

By Lauren Barack
School Library Journal
Students, educators, and a parent whose son committed suicide after a year of bullying recentyl testified before Congress urging the federal government to intervene.

“I think it’s important to have zero tolerance against bullying,” says Cassady Tetsworth, a 12th-grader and vice chair of the National Youth Advisory Board for the nonprofit Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), testifying before House Subcommittees on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and Healthy Families and Communities. “A federal law would make it more concrete, and not just something our school system wants us to do.”

Representative Linda Sánchez (D-Lakewood), who is passionate about this issue, agrees. She has sponsored the Safe Kids Agenda, several bills wending their way through Capitol Hill, including the State School Improvement Act — a bill that will require schools to launch anti-harassment programs, and report any bullying. Full story.


Experts to Congress: Kids aren’t “just kids” when bullying

By Chris Linden
Medill Reports
WASHINGTON — Tales of the school bully are as old as the playground, but Congress wants to end those tales and provide additional tools for monitoring school safety.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced in the House in May, would require states to report incidents of bullying and harassment, in addition to data already required on violent crimes, guns and drugs. The bill would also include funding for bullying prevention programs. It overlaps initiatives already taken by some states to monitor antagonistic behavior among children.

Experts suggest bullying is more than a rite of passage for children and often leads to violent behavior such as school shootings and suicide. Testifying before an education subcommittee last week, several students and anti-bullying advocates emphasized character education programs and peer mentoring groups to counteract bullying. Full story.

Opinion: Seeing Walker case, bullying will never stop

By Andy Harper
Sidelines, Middle Tennessee State U.
I’d like to think that I’m somewhat of an idealist. I’d like to think that world peace is achievable and the philosophy of “love your fellow man” isn’t just meaningless print on a Christmas card.

So why are kids like Carl Walker, 11, and Eric Mohat, 17, killing themselves? Maybe they’ve been listening to “Teenage Suicide” by Big Fun too much. Or maybe the vicious social hierarchy portrayed in movies like “The Heathers” is reality.

Sirdeaner Walker, mother of Carl, told members of the House Education Committee last week about her son. “What could make a child his age despair so much that he would take his own life? That question haunts me to this day, and I will probably never know the answer.”

“What we do know is that Carl was being bullied relentlessly in school.”

Her pitiful story was part of a plea for Congress to strengthen anti-bullying practices in our country’s education system. Walker, along with reps from the National Association of School Psychologists and “Students Against Violence Everywhere,” want more programs that involve an active approach to preventing bullying.

Walker said “faggot” and “gay” were some of the bullying slurs used against Carl. Likewise, William and Janis Mohat, parents of Eric, filled a federal lawsuit against their local Ohio school district because their son was harassed in a similar way. Full story.

Witnesses call for more character/bullying education

WASHINGTON — A mixture of administrators, advocates and students agreed Wednesday that schools must promote character education and raise awareness among their students, staff and faculty of the safety risks and dangers of bullying.

Speaking before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, witnesses examined strategies for limiting violence, bullying and harassment in the nation’s schools.

Scott Poland, Coordinator of the Suicide and Violence prevention Office at NOVA Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., argued that is too much complacency in regard to school safety in recent years and stressed that it must again become a priority for school administrators.

“The real issue is whether or not all schools are taking seriously their responsibility to ensure school safety and to create a climate where no child feels threatened or harassed,” he said in prepared remarks. Full story.