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October 23, 2012 3

Fighting Back Against Bullying

Octo­ber is Bul­ly­ing Pre­ven­tion Aware­ness Month:
Read this story and find out what ADL is doing to pre­vent bullying.

ADL teams with schools, gov­ern­ment and Hollywood.

“They punch me in the jaw, stran­gle me, they knock things out of my hand, take things from me, sit on me. They push me so far that I want to become the bully.” — Alex, 12

Alex, a stu­dent from Sioux City, Iowa, is a tar­get of bul­ly­ing whose story is told in the pow­er­ful doc­u­men­tary, “Bully.” The film, released by The Wein­stein Com­pany with ADL as a part­ner, vividly depicts ver­bal abuse and vio­lence that made school a liv­ing hell for Alex and four other children—two of whom com­mit­ted suicide.

ADL has used this film as a teach­ing tool. To date, we have screened it at ADL anti-bullying events in two dozen loca­tions around the coun­try to drive home a point we’ve been mak­ing for more than a decade: bul­ly­ing has seri­ous con­se­quences and must be dealt with seri­ously. Accord­ing to research by the Olweus Bul­ly­ing Pre­ven­tion Pro­gram of the Insti­tute on Fam­ily and Neigh­bor­hood Life at Clem­son Uni­ver­sity, 16.8 per­cent of youth are bul­lied two to three times per month or more.

“The impact of unchecked bul­ly­ing is one that car­ries over beyond the school years and affects the behav­ior of adults and the entire soci­ety,” ADL National Direc­tor Abra­ham H. Fox­man wrote about the movie in an arti­cle for The Daily Beast/Newsweek.

“ADL’s mis­sion to fight hate and prej­u­dice does not stop at the school­house door,” says ADL Civil Rights Direc­tor Deb­o­rah Lauter. “We con­tinue our work so that all chil­dren feel truly pro­tected, includ­ing stu­dents who are bul­lied because of their ances­try, color, dis­abil­ity, eth­nic­ity, gen­der, gen­der iden­tity or expres­sion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, national ori­gin, reli­gion or race.”

 

A Holis­tic Approach

ADL is unique because we fight bul­ly­ing holis­ti­cally, by track­ing the nature and mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem, devel­op­ing edu­ca­tion pro­grams for par­ents, teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tors and stu­dents, and by craft­ing legal and leg­isla­tive responses. “It takes a whole com­mu­nity to allow bul­ly­ing to go on, and it takes a whole com­mu­nity to make sure it doesn’t,” Mr. Fox­man says.

“ADL’s anti-bias, anti-bullying pro­grams, which reach over two mil­lion every year, sen­si­tize par­tic­i­pants to the pain inflicted by bul­ly­ing and cyber­bul­ly­ing and train teach­ers, stu­dents, par­ents and admin­is­tra­tors to respond effec­tively,” notes David Waren, ADL Edu­ca­tion Divi­sion Direc­tor. “Our pro­grams give a voice to the tar­get, build empa­thy in the per­pe­tra­tors and inspire bystanders to become allies.”

“If just one per­son had spo­ken up for me, maybe the bul­ly­ing would have stopped,” said ADL Peer Trainer Nikki Allinson at a Con­gres­sional brief­ing in May. She had been tor­mented for being Jew­ish dur­ing her child­hood in Con­necti­cut. “Bully” direc­tor Lee Hirsch and ADL Wash­ing­ton Coun­sel Michael Lieber­man also spoke at the brief­ing, which was hosted by Rep. Sheila Jack­son Lee (D-TX)—a par­tic­i­pant in an ADL “Bully” screen­ing pro­gram in Houston.

 

Train­ing Secu­rity and Legal Experts

Because first respon­ders to bul­ly­ing are often school police offi­cers, ADL is train­ing them as well. School secu­rity offi­cers in Los Ange­les are learn­ing about the char­ac­ter­is­tics and impact of cyber­bul­ly­ing, and how to inter­vene and pre­vent it. In Chicago, ADL trained approx­i­mately 1,500 Chicago Pub­lic School secu­rity offi­cers about the nature and dan­ger of cyber­bul­ly­ing and key legal issues includ­ing free­dom of speech and its lim­its, pri­vacy, Illi­nois’ anti-bullying law and crim­i­nal law issues.

With so many legal ram­i­fi­ca­tions, ADL is help­ing legal experts keep up to date on bul­ly­ing and cyber­bul­ly­ing case law. More­over, ADL has part­nered with sev­eral state Attor­neys Gen­eral and U.S. Attor­neys to train law enforce­ment offi­cers, school admin­is­tra­tors, social work­ers and oth­ers about legal issues raised by bul­ly­ing and cyber­bul­ly­ing.

 

Cre­at­ing Smart Laws

ADL is pro­mot­ing state laws that man­date school bul­ly­ing poli­cies. “A law gives schools the power to do some­thing about a bul­ly­ing prob­lem,” says ADL Civil Rights Direc­tor Deb­o­rah Lauter. “With­out a law, schools may choose not to cre­ate anti-bullying poli­cies, or may not actu­ally enforce policies.”

In 2009, ADL cre­ated a model anti-bullying statute that out­lines what an effec­tive law should include, for exam­ple: a strong def­i­n­i­tion of bul­ly­ing that includes cyber­bul­ly­ing; enu­mer­ated cat­e­gories to explic­itly address bul­ly­ing moti­vated by per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics; clear bul­ly­ing report­ing pro­ce­dures; and required reg­u­lar train­ing for teach­ers and stu­dents about bul­ly­ing and cyber­bul­ly­ing. Partly because of ADL’s advo­cacy, 49 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have anti-bullying laws on the books, and we are work­ing to strengthen those that are not comprehensive.

ADL is also sup­port­ing two pieces of fed­eral leg­is­la­tion, the Tyler Clementi Higher Edu­ca­tion Anti-Harassment Act of 2011 and the Safe Schools Improve­ment Act. The first would require col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties to rec­og­nize cyber­bul­ly­ing as a form of harass­ment and fund anti-harassment pro­grams. The sec­ond would help schools develop and imple­ment bul­ly­ing pre­ven­tion poli­cies and pro­grams, and would require states to gather and report infor­ma­tion about bul­ly­ing and harassment.

“The law is a blunt instru­ment when address­ing bul­ly­ing. It’s much bet­ter to pre­vent it in the first place,” says ADL Wash­ing­ton Coun­sel Michael Lieber­man. “But these fed­eral laws would pro­vide an impor­tant frame to com­ple­ment our edu­ca­tion and train­ing initiatives.”

 

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