HRC Blog

Obamas Take on Bullying in New Facebook Video, White House Summit

The president and the first lady are taking steps to combat bullying – first viaa video message they just posted to Facebook, and next through a White House anti-bullying summit that will be held Thursday.

In the video, President Obama said, “For a long time, bullying was treated as an unavoidable part of growing up. But more and more, we are seeing how harmful it can be for our kids.”

Many LGBT students can relate to this – in a 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The White House summit will bring together parents, teachers and students to exchange ideas about combating bullying. The Obamas invite everyone to join the conversation online at www.stopbullying.gov.

Ellen Kahn, the director of HRC’s Family Project, will be attending the White House summit. Kahn said she is pleased that anti-LGBT bullying is part of the conversation and isn’t being swept under the rug as it has been in the past.

“I’m looking forward to gaining a better understanding of how the Obama administration will continue to be proactive about taking on bullying,” Kahn said.

Kahn will be looking to raise awareness about Welcoming Schools, an HRC Foundation project that helps elementary schools develop respect for all kinds of families, including those with LGBT parents. The program addresses family diversity, gender stereotyping and name-calling.

A lot of anti-bullying programs are focused on middle school and high school, after some young people have already come out as LGBT. Welcoming Schools is aimed at K-5 learning environments. Early intervention helps creates understanding about what it means to be LGBT and is key to fending off anti-LGBT bullying, Kahn said.

In conjunction with the White House summit, Facebook is hosting its own event about making the Internet a safer place for young people. The live conversation, Facebook DC Live: White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, will begin at 12:20 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. It will feature guests from Facebook, MTV and more.

Kahn will be reporting back on her experience at the White House summit – keep your eye on HRC’s Back Story in the coming days for her full wrap-up.

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