Government Policy and Bullying

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In March, 2011, the White House convened a Conference on Preventing Bullying with the goal of sharing ideas about how the federal government and communities. The conference was intended also to promote the concept of bully behavior as a civil rights concern, bringing the weight of civil rights policy and anti-discrimination federal law to bear. Attendees from around the nation gathered to listen to speakers on related topics and to attend breakout groups for the purposes of discussing policy.

The conference was not the first time that the Obama administration has addressed the issue of bullies. Implemented in 2010 to be convened annually, the Department of Education hosted a summit with eight other federal agencies which collectively form the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee. Representatives from national and local advocacy groups, parents, teachers, and students gathered to discuss and share the state of anti-bully efforts from across the nation.

At the 2010 summit, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said bully situations are "doubly dangerous because if left unattended, [they] can rapidly escalate into even more serious violence and abuse." He described bully behavior as a "gateway to hate," citing the fact that most bullies don't change as adults. They often become workplace bullies, spousal abusers, or criminals.

An informational website has been set up with resources for kids, parents, educators, local governments, and community members. There is a wealth of material on the site, and it is easy to use. A Youth Leaders' Kit, developed from a high school program in Maryland, provides guidelines for teens to mentor and teach younger kids about preventing bully behavior, which also strengthens leadership skills in both groups. Other resources educate kids and adults about what constitutes bully behavior, what to look for to identify possible bullies and victims, and clear talk about prevention.

Public service announcements were produced featuring the President, Vice-President, and several Cabinet members. Educational webinars have been produced on several related topics, including one especially for bus drivers, who often feel powerless when faced with bully activity. All these resources are intended to provide resources that can be used to heighten awareness of the problem.

While the need for local and institution-based policy is most relevant to managing bully behavior, federal involvement and guidance is valuable. In the past, this has meant primarily funding research and programs devoted to prevention and intervention. Now the government will take on a more active role in guiding school districts in how to respond to bully activity.

Students and parents are encouraged to file civil rights violation claims, which will be fully investigated. The Office of Civil Rights will also be gathering data in order to develop a more comprehensive picture of the issue. There is a renewed commitment to enforcing existing laws as they relate to bully situations. In addition, funding earmarked for bully policy has been added to school safety budgets.

Government support is important because it provides a resource for institutions looking to implement or improve their own anti-bully policies. It does not replace local government and school policies on the matter, but rather acts to unify and support them. A big part of the federal strategy is to educate and empower kids so that they are better prepared to stand up to bullies.


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Government Policy and Bullying

This article was published on 2012/02/06