A Spotlight on Bullying: It's Personal

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

At 27 years old, I have experienced devastating breakups, the death of family members, and the loss of a much-loved dog smack during the middle of law school finals. Yet, one of my worst memories comes from an experience I had while attending a Christian high school.

During my junior year, my boyfriend and I broke up. Not long after, he wrote a speech about me which he read to a class full of 20-30 students. Soon, everyone had heard about the speech exposing that I was not religious. “Not a Christian” was equivalent to being a very bad person with no morals. Not only was I the talk of the school, but my friends quickly ditched their un-Christian best friend for my newly Christian ex. The rest of high school was a struggle for me. I was constantly talked about and excluded from things simply because my beliefs were different. Even now when I run into someone from high school, ten years later, I immediately get this strange inferior feeling because I know the judgment and labels that have been placed upon me.

Growing up can be tough. My own story exemplifies how a simple moment, a speech given in high school, impacts me to this day. Yet, my experience was minor compared to what students across the nation face. Many students experience bullying and harassment because they are members of a minority race, religion, or sexual orientation. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for these students to even show up for school, let alone attempt to learn and participate in extracurricular activities.

This is why it’s critically important to continue to bring attention to the problem of bullying and harassment -- and an event this week did just that. The Obama Administration held the first-ever White House Summit on Bullying Prevention to raise awareness of bullying and discuss the effects bullying has on students. One estimate states that nearly one-third of students are bullied each year – more than 13 million. The problem has only gotten worse in the age of the internet and social networking. Discussions were aimed at giving parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders the tools they need to identify and prevent bullying to promote safe learning environments. The President’s main goal was to dispel the myth that bullying is an inevitable part of growing up.

The White House conference not only gave the issue national attention, but also took important steps to end bullying and harassment. The Obama administration created the Stop Bullying Now campaign and a grant program requiring recipient states to measure school safety. Additionally, the White House launched a website, stopbullying.gov, for parents, students, and educators to help identify and address bullying.

New state and federal legislation is being developed to tackle the issue. We’ll be writing about that soon.

To read more about the conference on Bullying Prevention: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42005402/ns/politics-white_house/

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