"We cannot tolerate kids being bullied or called names simply for being who they are."
WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers members across the country are wearing purple today—the second annual "Spirit Day"—to symbolize their support for measures to stop bullying of teenagers based on sexuality or gender identity and to remember those who have been lost to suicide.
Earlier this week, a series of public service announcements began airing on cable television systems across the country. The ads, produced by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in partnership with the AFT, feature celebrities and others speaking out against bullying. Those appearing in the "Amplify Your Voice!" ads include Chaz Bono, Kristin Chenoweth, Rashida Jones, Mario Lopez, Shaquille O'Neal, Amy Poehler, Naya Rivera, the Rev. Al Sharpton and many others.
"All students should be able to live and learn without the fear of taunts or humiliation," AFT President Randi Weingarten said. "We have to stop excusing bullying as just part of being a kid and growing up. Bullying is cowardly behavior that can have dangerous, even fatal, consequences."
The TV PSAs will reach more than 20 million homes. "They remind kids, parents and all other viewers that we cannot tolerate kids being bullied or called names simply for being who they are. In the age of the Internet, bullying has become a constant reality," Weingarten said, adding that parents, school officials, school staff, community leaders, nonprofit and private groups, and especially other students must do everything possible to prevent it. To view the public service announcements, visit http://www.glaad.org/resources/amplifyyourvoice.
The AFT's participation in Spirit Day and support for the PSA videos are part of the union's anti-bullying campaign launched in March. The "See a Bully, Stop a Bully: Make a Difference" campaign is aimed at raising awareness and providing resources and training to educators, students, parents and others, including distributing blue "See a Bully—Stop a Bully" wristbands to educators. They signal to students that they can turn to and depend on their educators to deal with bullying or harassment. The AFT efforts bolster the educator training the union has previously provided to combat bullying and ensure that schools are safe environments for students and staff.
The AFT also has established an online collection of resources, downloadable materials and links to partner organizations on the AFT website, and will host a series of webinar trainings and regional conferences on bullying in the upcoming months.
Spirit Day, which began in 2010, was the idea of a teenager who wanted a response to a series of suicides of gay teens and a way to show bullying victims that they have a community of support.
For more information about the AFT anti-bullying campaign or how to order the wristbands or posters, visit www.aft.org/bullying.