An anti-bullying campaign recently launched by the Obama administration for the first time targets parents rather than kids themselves. The campaign, which will combine television, print and web advertising, aims to encourage parents to teach their children to do something about incidents of bullying that they witness. The ads were designed by the Ad Council together with the Free To Be Foundation.
The spot currently airing shows two school girls bullying a classmate — and a fourth girl standing to the side saying nothing. At the end, the narrator concludes by advising those watching to teach their children "how to be more than a bystander." The online and print ads will deliver the same message together with warnings that students encounter negative messages more than once a day in their daily lives, and that they need to be equipped to deal with them in an effective manner.
The ads were unveiled Monday at an annual anti-bullying summit hosted by the Department of Education in Washington, where lawmakers, educators and government officials convened to develop a national strategy aimed at ensuring a safe, healthy learning environment for students. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed the summit Monday, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will deliver a keynote speech on Tuesday.
Administration officials say that they're committed to taking actions that will shine more light on the problem of bullying. They said that there are still too many people who consider bullying a rite of passage that toughens kids up and prepares them to encounter the world outside of the classroom. This point of view is slowly changing on the heels of several high-profile suicides by pre-teens and teenagers that have been attributed to the harassment they endured in school.
Of particular concern to education advocates is bullying directed against students perceived to be gay or lesbian — such as Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old who killed himself in 2010 after allegedly being bullied online by his college roommate, who was convicted of invasion of privacy and other charges for using a webcam to film Clementi and another man kissing.
In her speech, Sibelius said that the raft of suicides by gay teens was what first brought attention to the level of bullying some students were experiencing. The publicity surrounding them served to change the mind of those who viewed bullying an inescapable part of being a student, but generally harmless in the long term. She also pointed to the efforts taken up by various school districts around the nation to face the problem of bullying head on. Over the last several years, lawmakers have placed anti-bullying laws on the books in 36 states.