For a second time in less than a year, the White House last week put the spotlight on what it believes has become an epidemic for American school children: bullying.
President Barack Obama gathered about 150 parents, teachers, bullying victims, researchers, and staff from his education, health and human services, technology, and other departments at the White House March 10 to have frank conversations and generate fresh ideas for dealing with the problem—one he said he dealt with as a child.
“With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune,” he said.
He unveiled a new website, stopbullying.gov, that offers advice and guidance for kids, parents, teachers, and community members. In addition, his staff said they have new partnerships with MTV and Facebook to counter bullying. The latter was used during the day-long conference as a platform to field questions from all over the country about bullying.
The MTV network, a favorite among teenagers, will lead a new coalition to fight bullying online, the president said, and launch a series of ads to talk about the damage done when kids are bullied.
And Facebook said it will add two new safety features in the next few weeks: a redesigned safety center with expert resources and information for teenagers and a social reporting system that will allow members to report content that violates Facebook policies so it can be removed and parents and teachers notified.
The father of Ty Field, an 11-year-old Oklahoman who committed suicide last year after being bullied and then being suspended when he stood up for himself, said the essential lessons schools must teach include four R’s, not three.
“Reading, writing, ’rithmetic—and respect,” the father, Kirk Smalley, said.
In recent days, several national education groups, including both national teachers unions, the national PTA, and others have offered their own anti-bullying initiatives. And on March 8, Sens. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and Mark Casey, a Republican from Illinois, reintroduced a bill that would create the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2011 edition of Education Week as White House Eye Again on Bullying