June 28, 2012
Recap of GLSEN’s Involvment in Today’s Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus Launch Event
GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard took part in the launch of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus (CABC), “a bipartisan caucus comprised of Members of Congress committed to the belief that all communities deserve a safe environment to thrive, and that our nation is in urgent need of solutions that stop bullying – both offline and online – now and forever,” today in Washington, D.C. The Caucus is chaired by Rep. Mike Honda, who is joined by 40 other legislators from both parties.
In the opening press conference, speeches were given by Rep. Honda and several other SSIA cosponsors, including lead sponsor Rep. Linda Sanchez.
One of the Republican cosponsors of SSIA, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said, “we may be from different sides of the aisle, but we all believe that it is time to stand up and stop bullying both offline and online. Every American deserves the right to live a life that is free from persecution and harassment. No one has the right to victimize others because of their gender or their age or their race or creed, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
SSIA promises to be a focal point for the CABC. As Rep. Sanchez said during her speech, “there is no reason that the Safe Schools Improvement Act should not make it to the President’s desk.” All but five of the CABC members are SSIA cosponsors.
During the event, Katy Butler, the teen activist who started the campaign to have the Motion Picture Association of America lower the rating of the documentary Bully, from R to PG-13, spoke in support of SSIA, passionately calling for an enumerated anti-bullying law, saying “let’s do this and let’s do it right.”
At the launch event, Dr. Byard moderated a panel on Adult Roles and Responsibilities that included Lee Hirsh, the director of Bully, Tina Long, a parent featured in the film, Robert Gebbia, Executive Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Kelly Vaillancourt from the National Association of School Psychologists. Some topics of conversation included the lack of anti-bullying regulation in schools and the need for mental health professionals in schools to help address bullying.
Dr. Byard addressed the importance of adults in combatting bullying, saying, “GLSEN’s research indicates that the presence of supportive staff in a school is one of the most important factors in the quality of a student’s life. One supportive adult can save a life. Six or more can change a culture.” You can read Dr. Byard’s opening remarks in their entirety here.
A majority of experts on the day’s panel, including PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby, represented organizations that make up the GLSEN-led National Safe Schools Partnership (SSP), a coalition of over 90 organizations advocating for federal legislations to create safe schools for all students. PFLAG’s partnership with GLSEN continues to expand beyond their leadership role in the SSP by helping to distribute GLSEN’s K-12 curriculums to schools across the country. GLSEN’s involvement in the day’s events continued into the evening, as Dr. Byard introduced Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, before a screening of Bully.