After Film Warning Kids Not to Call Others 'Jerks,' Sebelius Tells Kids to Say: 'You're Being a Jerk'

March 15, 2012 - 4:17 PM

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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke to middle school students on March 15, 2012 in Washington, D.C. about combating bullying in their school. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - Immediately after showing middle-school students a new video from the Cartoon Network that admonishes children not to call people names like "stupid," "fat," and "jerk," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the students they could do a lot of good by telling some students they were "jerks."

It "can make a huge amount of difference," she said.

Sebelius' remarks came in response to a question from CNN’s Don Lemon, who served as moderator of a panel discussion following a screening of “Stop Bullying: Speak Up.”

The audience was comprised of children at the Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C. The students, from the 6th to 8th grade, were given black t-shirts with the “Speak Up” logo to wear at the assembly.

“What do you think is the best advice for people who are going into watching this film and anyone who is watching?” asked Lemon.

As part of her answer, Sebelius said: “I think, very important, is for kids to understand how powerful you really are. You might feel like you’re not big enough, not strong enough, not--don’t have enough tools. But just saying, ‘Stop it! You know, you’re being a jerk!’--walk away, get away from this person can make a huge amount of difference.”

“And you can really rescue somebody,” Sebelius said. “You can be a real hero.”

Stuart Syndyer, COO of the Cartoon Network, participated on the panel with Sebelius.

“Secretary Sebelius and everyone at the Department of Health and Human Services have been incredible partners in helping raise awareness about the importance of speaking up against bullying,” said Snyder. “How gratifying it has been to have two national leaders, President Obama and Secretary Sebelius, support ‘Speak Up.’”

President Obama addressed the crowd briefly by video, telling the children that bullying is an issue that concerns him as the president and as a father.

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Students at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C. watch a Cartoon Network film 'Stop Bullying: Speak Up' during an assembly on March 15, 2012. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

During a press conference following the event, Sebelius said the government plays an important role in combating bullying in public schools.

She also said, “Kids should feel safe. If they don’t feel safe, then a parent should step in and protect them.”

“And then I think the parent needs to find somebody at school who also will pay attention,” Sebelius said. “If the first person doesn’t listen, go to the second person.

“As a parent you should be empowered to really act on behalf of your child and other children,” Sebelius said.

Lemon ended the assembly by asking the children to shout “Stop Bullying!” and “Speak Out!” several times.

“Speak Out” will air at 5:30p.m. and 8 p.m. (EST) Sunday on Cartoon Network.