Obama commits $132M to anti-bullying — what will that mean?

At last week's first ever "Bullying Prevention Summit," President Obama committed to providing $132M in funding from the 2012 budget toward anti-bullying efforts in schools. This came in the wake of discussion with several parents who had lost their children due to bullycide along with presentations by administration officials on the growing epidemic of bullying.  The reaction from many people on the front lines of the anti-bullying movement were encouraged, stating that this was a great victory for those of us working on stopping bullying in schools.

Trust me, I am NOT a glass-half-empty kind of person, but I have to admit that I'm not as impressed as others.  Those of you who are regular readers of this blog or have seen me speak know I ask tough questions and want practical explanations, so I thought I'd examine what this supposed windfall really means for schools across the country. (more…)

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Thirty documented bullycides – when is it “enough?”

So, over the weekend, on the heels of "celebrating" what would have been Christian Taylor's 17th birthday, came news of another tragedy.  Cassidy Andel, a 16 years old at Griggs County Central High School near Bismarck, ND, committed suicide last week. Early indicators show this was a case of cyberbullying.

So, that brings the body count to 30.  Thirty documented cases of bullying suicides in the last 7 weeks. And those are only the ones we know about.  I suspect there are many more.

Reading the news sucked the life out of me this weekend.  I guess I should be a little less emotional about it -- after all, my entire business is about preventing tragedy, but that means that tragedy has to exist in order for it to need preventing.

But what's hard is the "reaction" to these incidents.  People at the school are already scrambling to put better cyberbullying task forces in place. They plan to put up posters and to wear blue wristbands as a sign of safety. Good...awareness is good. But, it is a largely helpless response; posters and wristbands matter little to people who think it's ok or even good sport to taunt, harass, or humiliate other people whether in person or through technology.

We need to solve this problem at its source and again, as typical, I see little movement in that direction. (more…)

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The birthday that should have been happy

Today is a very special day -- a child's birthday is always special.  Eagerly anticipated, impossible to overlook.  Usually it's accompanied by happy thoughts, celebrations, balloons and ice cream.

It's supposed to be a time of joy...but that's not possible when the child whose birthday it is cannot celebrate. Christian Taylor would be 17 today, but he took his own life last May, the final straw after a long bout with bullying.

In the last several weeks, I've had the chance to get to know his mother, Lisa Williams.  Our connection came as a result of a post I wrote last June in which I mentioned him and several other victims.  I was literally on my way to the airport for my recent trip to Washington DC when Lisa called our office...and I picked up.  I spent the next 40 minutes or so talking to her as I drove to the airport. When she heard of my efforts to meet with Kevin Jennings while in DC, she even offered to help connect us because she had received a personal call from Secretary Jennings just the week before.  Unfortunately, all our efforts to get that meeting scheduled were wasted; to this day, there's been no response to multiple phone calls, faxes and mail from Mr. Jennings' office. (ironically, Mr. Jennings was in the KEX Radio studio Monday, just two days before my live interview yesterday...talking about bullying and the increased emphasis on the problem by the federal government). (more…)

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