When I helped close the third annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit on Tuesday, my colleagues and I gave attendees a simple charge: what are you going to do to further bullying prevention in the next year?
At the summit we heard about the diverse and expansive efforts of many different organizations – from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to previewing the AD Council’s new campaign targeted at parents. We also heard about the continued commitment of the federal partners to find solutions to bullying through keynotes by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Associate Attorney General, Tony West.
In each of the keynotes, panels and discussions over the course of the two-day summit, one key theme emerged: We all have a role to play to prevent bullying, but we must make sure we base our efforts on the best available knowledge, work together so we advance the field rather than reinvent the wheel, and make sure we engage youth.
Our words and messaging around bullying matter. We must work to combat indifference that sometimes leads to inaction. Even though we all want “zero-tolerance” towards bullying, we need to recognize bullying’s impact on all students in a school, including those who bully. And we must consider whether exclusionary disciplinary policies could make things worse. We must work to find alternative strategies to make sure we hold those who bully accountable, that also allow those students to learn, grow and succeed.
We must also strive to recognize the many other factors, beyond bullying, that contribute to youth’s suicidal ideation and behaviors. Speakers at the summit reminded us that recognizing the other factors that may be involved in youth suicide, and being careful how we talk about it, allows us to better help youth who may be considering it.
Through all of our efforts, we must make sure we ask the youth involved. Over 30 student leaders attended the summit and let us all know, they have ideas and they want to be heard. That is one of the reasons the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention announced the launch of their “Stop Bullying Video Challenge” allowing teens13-18 years-old to submit PSAs on how their peers can be “more than a bystander.”
Ultimately, it is up to all of us to combat bullying and I truly hope this year’s summit has inspired us all to take action.