Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is pitching a $500 million program to help states and schools combat bullying. At the same time, her campaign has a new ad framing her opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump, as a schoolyard bully.
Funding for the “Better Than Bullying” initiative would go to states to develop plans to combat bullying. Under the plan, states would be eligible for $4 in federal matching funds for every $1 of their own money they put into anti-bullying efforts.
The money could be used for everything from hiring social workers, school psychologists, nurses, and school counselors, to supporting programs to improve mental health or prevent suicide. States could also use the money to help train teachers on how to deal with bullies, or figure out how to handle cyberbullying, including parent education.
The funds could also help states make school climate a priority under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and to develop legislation that explicitly prohibits bullying on the basis of race, gender, national origin, religion, gender identity, and more. Right now, all states have an anti-bullying law on the books, but some lack teeth and don’t include things like gender identity or sexual orientation.
It’s worth noting that ESSA, which Congress passed late last year, consolidated programs that get at some of the same goals as Clinton’s anti-bullying initiative, including the Elementary and Secondary Counseling program, and money for safe and drug-free schools.
It’s unclear that lawmakers would be willing to go for a similar initiative so soon after scrapping those programs. But Corey Ciorciari, a policy advisor for Clinton, said that states could use the money from the new bullying initiative to supplement any mental health or anti-bullying programs financed with other federal funds, including money for teacher quality, or from a new flexible block grant.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has been linked to classroom bullying. Leaders of the National Education Association say their members have been noticing an uptick in bullying, including of minority students, inspired by Trump.
But other experts, including Deborah Temkin, the director of education research for the nonpartisan Child Trends, say it’s too early to say whether bullying is on the rise, or even if it is, what’s causing the increase.
In fact, bullying has actually been trending downward, according to recent federal data. Ciorciari acknowledged that, but said there’s been a spike in cyberbullying.
“It’s very real,” he said. “This remains a critical issue the secretary has been focused on for a long time.”
The Clinton ad attacking Trump as a bully features a young boy named Bryce with muscular dystrophy.
“When I was younger, I was bullied, but now I have a strong community around me. Then I saw Donald Trump make fun of a journalist,” he says, referring to the time that Trump mocked a reporter with a disability. “His entire platform is hatred. I don’t want bullies in my life, and I certainly don’t want one in the White House.”
Watch the ad below:
Staff Writer Evie Blad contributed to this post.
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