Bullying has become a major issue in schools all across the country, affecting the emotional well-being of many students and leaving some afraid to attend classes at the risk of further victimization. Leaders ranging from the President to students have taken a stand on the issue, tackling the problem through a variety of campaigns, ads, initiatives and support networks aimed at ensuring the safety of all youth. These efforts have been successful in spreading awareness about the impact of bullying and have led to a greater focus on the need for bullying prevention measures in schools.
The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) recently launched a campaign called Connect for Respect to combat the bullying epidemic. As part of their campaign, National PTA created five separate tip sheets for parents on bullying, ranging from understanding and identifying the signs of bullying to actions they can take if their own child is a bully. National PTA members are urged to host their own Connect for Respect events where they can share resources with parents and teachers about how to prevent bullying from occurring. The focus of this campaign is to alert parents and educators to the dangers of bullying and creating safe environments where youth can feel comfortable reaching out to them for emotional support.
Understanding why bullying occurs and examining its repercussions on the mental health of students was a major factor in Emmy-winning Director Lee Hirsch’s decision to create a documentary on the subject, aptly named The Bully Project. The documentary follows the lives of five students and families who have been affected by bullying for a school year and portrays the world that these victims of bullying live in as a result of the abuse. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2011and was met with critical applause for its stark portrayal of the bullying crisis in schools.
Roughly 5.7 million youth in the U.S. are affected each year by bullying, but this number dramatically increases over diverse groups. Statistics released by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Network (GLSEN) portray a startling culture of bullying that has especially targeted LGBT students. Almost nine out of ten LGBT teens reported that they were verbally harassed in school and almost half were physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
A string of LGBT suicides in the fall of 2010 led author and activist Dan Savage to create a YouTube video with the message for LGBT youth that, “it gets better.” This video sparked the It Gets Better Project, a movement with the goal of showing LGBT youth who are facing bullying in school that they have a better future ahead of them. Over 10,000 celebrities, politicians, and everyday Americans have created their own “It gets better” videos, including President Barrack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Ellen DeGeneres, and the San Francisco Giants baseball team, among others.
As part of its focus on identifying communities that best exemplify commitment to their youth, America’s Promise Alliance recognized a safe zones program operating for LGBT youth in Houston, TX through its annual 100 Best Communities for Young People competition. The program held weekly sessions for LGBT-oriented youth to come together and discuss their problems with adult advocates. Support networks such as the one in Houston play a critical role in ensuring the mental health of students who are victimized by bullying, providing them with the leverage they need to deal with their issues.
While bullying still remains a problem for many youth, the steps taken by these organizations have shed light on the necessity for instilling bullying prevention measures in schools and provided invaluable help to youth who are coping with the victimization of bullying.