Obama Warns About Dangers of Bullying in School and on Internet

Fred Lucas | March 10, 2011 | 1:55pm EST
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President Barack Obama speaks at a conference on bullying prevention in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – Bullying in schools and online is a national problem, President Barack Obama said at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention on Thursday that included educational organizations, a student group, teachers unions, MTV, a homosexual group and a Muslim organization.

“A third of middle school and high school students have reported being bullied during the school year,” Obama said. “Almost 3 million students have said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, even spit on. It’s also more likely to affect kids that are seen as different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have, or sexual orientation.”

About 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers came to the White House conference. Students involved in bullying are more likely to have challenges in school, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to have health and mental health issues, according to the Department of Education.

Obama’s remarks came at the start of the all day conference that included several breakout sessions and the announcement of various public-private partnerships with the Department of Education, the National Parent Teachers Association, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Student Councils and the National School Boards Association.

One of those initiatives is MTV Network’s’ “A Thin Line.” The network, which has a primarily teen audience, will launch a new anti-digital discrimination coalition “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),” according to a White House news release.

The National Council of La Raza is an organization that has advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, which supporters call a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal aliens and opponents call “amnesty.” The Anti-Defamation League is an organization that battles anti-Jewish discrimination.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) battles anti-Muslim discrimination and has been critical of U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East. GLAAD is an advocacy group promoting same-sex marriage.

“The good news is, people are stepping up and accepting responsibility,” Obama said. “They’re refusing to turn a blind eye to this problem. The PTA is launching a new campaign to get resources and information into the hands of parents. MTV is leading a new coalition to fight bullying online, and they’re launching a series of ads to talk about the damage that’s done when kids are bullied for the color of their skin or their religion or being gay or just being who they are.”

Another major corporation taking action is Facebook, the social networking website that will unveil two new safety features in the coming weeks. One will be “a revamped multimedia safety center to incorporate multimedia, external resources from renowned experts, and downloadable information for teens.” Another is the creation of a “social reporting” system to enable people to report content that violates Facebook policies so that it can be removed as soon as possible.

The president talked about how because of new technology, such as Facebook and MySpace, bullies can reach their victims outside the walls of schools, referring to cyber bullying.

“Today, bullying doesn’t even end at the school bell – it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens,” Obama said. “And in recent months, a series of tragedies has drawn attention to just how devastating bullying can be. We have just been heartbroken by the stories of young people who endured harassment and ridicule day after day at school, and who ultimately took their own lives.”

Obama stressed that bullying is not something that should just be accepted.

“If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” Obama said. “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept. 

“As parents and students, as teachers and members of the community, we can take steps – all of us – to help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe; a climate in which they all can feel like they belong,” he added.

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