HRC Blog

Bullying Prevention Summit Draws Big Names, Fosters Important Dialogue

DOEThis post comes from Kim Westheimer, Director of HRC's Welcoming Schools Program:

What do Lady Gaga’s mother, the first lady of Maryland, a gay Greco-Olympian wrestler, and a couple of cabinet secretaries have in common? 


They all attended this week’s federal partners in bullying prevention summit. 

Topics from the conference included:

  • Current research about students who are at high risk for bullying, Including youth who are LGBT, immigrants, and those who have disabilities.
  • The importance of strong policies  - from local to national.  Education Secretary Arne Duncan reiterated the President’s supports for anti-bullying legislation, including legislation that explicitly protects LGBT students
  • The role of media (social and traditional) as a place that can foster and help prevent bullying.  Actor and philanthropist Marlo Thomas announced a new set of public service announcements aimed at parents, with a message of “Teach your kids how to be more than a bystander.” The Department of Education announced a video contest for youth to submit their own anti-bullying messages and the Cartoon Network unveiled new PSAs.
  • The role of youth leadership.  Young people talked about the importance of peers talking to peers and the need for adults to listen to students. 
  • A critical look at how educators, media and the general public view links between suicide and bullying.  Researchers stressed that suicide is caused by a multiple factors and is not precipitated by one event, such as bullying.  For more information about this issue, see “Talking about Suicide and LGBT Populations”   HRC is one of the coeditors of this document.

This is the third federal partners summit.  One unique focus this year was students who bully. Current research about these students was shared and was brought to life by a student speaker who was bullied in middle school and started bullying others in response.   He gradually realized that his aggressive behaviors made him more and more isolated and that he felt bad about harming others. Now as a high school student, he speaks out against bullying. 

The summit reinforced the importance of HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Program, which takes an LGBT inclusive approach to bullying prevention and school climate in elementary schools.  I was inspired by some of the people who were interested in Welcoming School’s unique approach including:

  • Two teen-age boys who are 4-H members from the mid-west would like to use the Welcoming Schools film, What Do You Know? 6 to 12 year olds talk about gays and lesbians to generate conversations with high school students;
  • A parent who wants help making her parochial school safe for her daughter who doesn’t conform to gender norms; and
  • Representatives from national organizations who have already successfully used Welcoming Schools materials to address the concerns of schools with which they work.
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