Next Wednesday is Unity Day, a chance for schools and communities around the country to come together to take a stand against bullying. I have shared some startling statistics on bullying in the past (see: cyberbullying and unite against bullying), but unfortunately bullying continues to be an issue, in schools and online. Bullying does not target only certain types of people – on the contrary, bullying can affect both men and women of all difference races, nationalities, shapes or sizes.
Recently, Senator Bob Casey wrote:
According to the Department of Education, nearly one in three students between ages 12 – 18 are affected by bullying and harassment. Studies show that the effects of bullying have long-term consequences, including decreased concentration in the classroom, increased absenteeism and lower student achievement. While the federal government supports states and school districts in promoting school safety, there is no current federal policy that comprehensively and explicitly addresses issues of bullying and harassment.
During floor consideration of the Every Child Achieves Act in July, Senator Al Franken introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act as an amendment. The amendment sought to protect students from discrimination and harassment on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and to provide protections for LGBT students similar to those that already exist regarding discrimination based on race, religion, and gender. Unfortunately, the amendment did not receive the 60 votes necessary for passage.
Introduced on January 29, 2015, the Safe Schools Improvement Act would require schools and districts receiving designated federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would also ensure that schools and districts implement programs to prevent and respond to incidents of bullying and harassment.
It is encouraging to know that our government is working to address this issue, but it doesn’t have to end there. Unity Day represents something important – a chance for people to stand up and work together as a community to bring an end to the cruelty and harm of bullying.
At ELBS, our high school students will recognize this day by taking part in various activities that illustrate how to identify when a person is being bullied, peace makers and peace breakers, and positive things to say to a friend. We will also be encouraging students and staff to wear orange in honor of Unity Day.
For more information, visit the National Bullying Prevention Month website here, and consider signing up to take part in Unity Day in your community as well!