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Obama, Activists Launch Initiative To Prevent Bullying

03/10/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
The White House wants to take a stand against bullying in schools, and, today, at the Conference on Bullying Prevention, some 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates and policymakers converged on the white House to discuss how to work together to combat bullying in the nation’s schools. President Barack Obama cited anti-LGBT bullying as an ongoing problem. Indeed, even if someone is not lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, bullying over the perception thereof can happen to anyone. Use of anti-LGBT language is often used in derogatory manners against those who are not even lesbian, gay or trans.

President Obama stated

“Today’s conference marks a turning point for young people everywhere, and in particular, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who face disproportionate rates of harassment while at school. By taking this momentous stand against bullying, President Obama has sent a clear message to LGBT youth across the country that it’s okay to be who you are.”

As a child, Obama was the victim of bullying.

According to the GLAAD press release:

The conference comes just months after GLAAD bridged an unprecedented partnership with Facebook and helped reshape the way the site responds to hateful and violent anti-LGBT posts. Facebook later joined GLAAD and other national organizations, including GLSEN, HRC, PFLAG and the Trevor Project, to create the “Network of Support,” an educational initiative that works to prevent anti-LGBT cyberbullying.

GLAAD is continuing to work with Facebook, MTV and the American Federation of Teachers in an attempt to try and make bullying less common.

GLAAD stated:

As part of MTV’s multi-year, award-winning A THIN LINE campaign, the network will launch a new anti-digital discrimination coalition, which will work with MTV to fight bullying and intolerance online (in partnership with the National Council of La Raza, Anti-Defamation League, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and GLAAD).

Additionally, The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) will be launching a national bullying campaign, “See a Bully, Stop a Bully, Make a Difference,” focused on raising bullying awareness and providing resources, training, and technical assistance for leaders and members. AFT will work closely with GLSEN and GLAAD to help amplify an anti-bullying message.

Last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, he brought up the back and forth between Sarah Palin and Kathy Griffin:

As this was going on, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and others were introducing anti-bullying legislation. The press release on this movement reads:

As President Obama convenes a White House Summit on anti-bullying, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today joined with a coalition of 21 Senate colleagues to introduce the Student Non-Discrimination Act, legislation to protect students who are — or are perceived to be — lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) from harassment, bullying, and violence at school.

“All children should always feel safe and secure in our schools,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “While at school to learn, some students are forced to endure harassment, violence, bullying, and intimidation because of their sexual orientation. This is completely unacceptable. Our laws ensure that all students have access to public education in a safe environment free from discrimination, and these laws must guarantee these same protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. This is the only way to ensure that every student has the opportunity to achieve his or her God given potential.”

“I am grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her commitment to these critical bullying prevention measures,” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. “We must ensure that the response to this crisis addresses the needs of LGBT students as well as all students affected, and Senator Gillibrand’s leadership on this is a crucial contribution.”

“Like so many others this past fall, I was shocked and saddened by all the reports about young LGBT people taking their lives after facing relentless bullying in schools,” said Glennda Testone, Executive Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “We see hundreds of LGBT youth each week who are seeking a welcoming home, and applaud Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to ensure that every LGBT college and university student can safely be who they are on campuses across the country.”

Surveys indicate that nearly nine in ten LGBT students have been bullied, and a recent study conducted by doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that LGBT youth are bullied two to three times more often than their heterosexual peers.

The harassment that LGBT youth experience in school deprives them of equal educational opportunities by increasing their likelihood of skipping school, underperforming academically, and eventually dropping out. It can also have a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health. Left unchecked, this harassment can lead to life-threatening violence and suicide.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It would forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassing behavior.

SNDA would also provide meaningful and effective remedies (loss of federal funding and a legal cause of action for victims) for discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, modeled after Title IX.

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