Bullying: 'Not Just a Part of Growing Up'

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Welcomed to a Sept. 21 summit on student bullying with the acknowledgment that teachers strive every day to overcome it, AFT president Randi Weingarten outlined for hundreds of federal officials where things stand and where child advocates should go from here.

The summit, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, invited Weingarten and NEA secretary-treasurer Rebecca Pringle to set the stage for two days of panels and tutorials on bullying prevention. "This topic is close to all our hearts," Weingarten said. "You can see that both of the national teachers unions have taken this up in a very personal way." After only two years of effort, she said, and much to the credit of the Obama administration, most Americans and virtually all school administrators now "understand that bullying is an act of aggression meant to do harm, not just a part of growing up, and not a rite of passage."

Weingarten noted that the AFT has distributed more than 100,000 wristbands to date as part of our "See a Bully, Stop a Bully: Make a Difference" campaign. The only caveat, she added, is that "you have to wear them if you get them," so kids will know that a school employee or a fellow student with the blue wristband is a source of protection.

As to what's next, the AFT president offered several approaches for school districts: (1) Extend anti-bullying efforts beyond a one-year push into an ongoing climate of tolerance. (2) Continually train all school staff, but recognize that schools alone can't solve the problem. Educating others "takes a little bit of doing," Weingarten said, "and it's different in every place." (3) Enforce rules against bullying consistently and fairly. (4) Make sure kids know there is no such thing as an innocent bystander.

This week's Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit is one in a series of events the AFT has taken part in during the lead-up to National Bullying Prevention Month in October. An AFT summit on bullying is planned for Nov. 14 in Albany, N.Y. [Annette Licitra]

September 21, 2011