From the White House (10.26.10):
Today, the Department of Education issued guidance to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws. The guidance issued today also makes clear that while current laws enforced by the department do not protect against harassment based on religion or sexual orientation, they do include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals.
The guidance, which comes in the form of a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to schools, colleges and universities, explains educators' legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment. The letter provides examples of harassment and illustrates how a school should respond in each case.
The White House and Department of Education also announced next steps to address bullying and harassment in schools. Early next year, the White House will host a conference to raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment. This conference will build upon efforts led by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to spark a dialogue on the ways in which communities can come together to prevent bullying and harassment.
"We've got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not," said President Obama. "We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of harassment."
"Bullying is a problem that shouldn't exist. No one should ever feel harassed or unsafe in a school simply because they act or think or dress differently than others," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "To every student who feels threatened or harassed -- for whatever reason -- please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people who love you. And please know that we will protect you," Duncan continued.
"Students cannot learn if they feel threatened or harassed," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali. "We want to keep students safe and learning, and today's guidance will help us do that."
Following the release of today's guidance, the Department plans to hold technical assistance workshops around the country in early 2011 to help educators better understand their obligations and the resources available to take prompt and effective steps that will end harassment and bullying in schools and on college campuses.
The guidance issued today is just one of several efforts in the Department of Education's comprehensive approach to end bullying. In 2009, the Department joined the Departments of Defense, Justice, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and the Interior to form the Obama Administrations Inter-Agency Task Force on Bullying. In August of this year, the Obama administration hosted the first ever National Bullying Summit and launched both the Stop Bulling Now campaign and www.bullyinginfo.org, a national database of effective anti-bullying programs.
For more information about OCR and the anti-discrimination statutes that it enforces, please visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/aboutocr.html. To review the "Dear Colleague" letter, please visit: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html.
President Obama: It Gets Better
Posted by Brian Bond on October 21, 2010 at 11:30 PM EDT
Recently, several young people have taken their own lives after being bullied for being gay – or perceived as being gay – by their peers. Their deaths are shocking and heartbreaking tragedies. No one should have to endure relentless harassment or tormenting. No one should ever feel so alone or desperate that they feel have nowhere to turn. We each share a responsibility to protect our young people. And we also have an obligation to set an example of respect and kindness, regardless of our differences.
We all have a responsibility to protect all of our children. But we also have an obligation to set an example of respect and kindness regardless of our differences.
This is personal to me. When I was a young adult, I faced the jokes and taunting that too many of our youth face today, and I considered suicide as a way out. But I was fortunate. One of my co-workers recognized that I was hurting, and I soon confided in her. She cared enough to push me to seek help. She saved my life. I will always be grateful for her compassion and support – the same compassion and support that so many kids need today.
In the wake of these terrible tragedies, thousands of Americans have come together to share their stories of hope and encouragement for LGBT youth who are struggling as part of the It Gets Better Project . Their messages are simple: no matter how difficult or hopeless life may seem when you’re a young person who’s been tormented by your peers or feels like you don’t fit in: life will get better.
President Obama is committed to ending bullying, harassment and discrimination in all its forms in our schools and communities. That’s why he recorded this message.
Last year, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services joined forces with four other departments to create a federal task force on bullying. In August 2010, the task force staged the first-ever National Bullying Summit, bringing together 150 top state, local, civic, and corporate leaders to begin mapping out a national plan to end bullying. The task force also launched a new website, www.bullyinginfo.org, which brings all the federal resources on bullying together in one place for the first time ever.
If you’re a young person who’s been bullied or harassed by your peers, or you’re a parent or teacher who knows a young person being bullied or harassed, here are a few resources that can help you:
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LBGTQ youth by providing resources and a nationwide, 24 hour hotline. If you are considering suicide or need help, call: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
BullyingInfo.org is a project of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) focused on providing tools and resources for youth, parents, teachers and mental health providers to prevent and address bullying.
It Gets Better Project
President Obama’s video is just one of thousands of videos submitted by people across the country to inspire and encourage LGBT youth who are struggling. You can watch more videos at ItGetsBetterProject.com
For even more information and resources visit:
* Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
* Matthew Shepard Foundation
* Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
A transcript of the President’s video is here.
Brian Bond is Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement