School Bullying Summit's Big Hope: An Anti-Bullying Tipping Point

By Paulson, Amanda | The Christian Science Monitor, August 11, 2010 | Go to article overview

School Bullying Summit's Big Hope: An Anti-Bullying Tipping Point


Paulson, Amanda, The Christian Science Monitor


The Department of Education convened its first summit on school bullying Wednesday. It comes as state lawmakers nationwide step up their efforts to pass anti-bullying laws.

In the wake of several high-profile bullying incidents, the Department of Education is hosting the first federal school bullying summit Wednesday and Thursday.

Suicides linked to bullying - including the January suicide of Phoebe Prince, which has resulted in nine felony charges against her Massachusetts classmates - have drawn particular attention to the issue, and several states are considering or enacting anti-bullying laws.

"People are really feeling the heat now," says David Waren, education director for the Anti-Defamation League, who is attending the conference, noting that 43 states have now enacted some form of anti-bullying legislation.

"This is the first time this kind of initiative has taken place, bringing together so many disparate elements, and there really is a hope that it will create a critical mass or tipping point ... and out of that will create a more strategic and aligned and leveraged effort," he adds.

In his opening remarks, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made clear that he sees addressing bullying - and the broader issues around ensuring that students feel safe and have a school free of disruptions - as integral to education policy.

"A school where children don't feel safe is a school where children struggle to learn. It is a school where kids drop out, tune out, and get depressed," said Secretary Duncan in his prepared remarks, dismissing the notion that bullying can be "shrugged off" or is an elusive concept.

"Bullying is definable," he said. "Good prevention programs work to reduce bullying. And bullying is very much an education priority that goes to the heart of school performance and school culture."

The metrics of bullying

At the summit, Duncan highlighted some of the statistics:

- In 2007, nearly 1 out of 3 students in middle school and high school said they had been bullied at school during the school year.

- 1 out of 9 high schoolers - 2.8 million students - said they had been pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on during the last school year. …

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