Starting today, the Department of Education’s Office for Safe and Drug Free Schools is hosting the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit. During the two day summit, a wide range of participants (including the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services) will gather with experts from around the country to discuss the scope and impact of bullying, and what programs and policies are working best to combat it.
Earlier this month, HRC sent a letter [pdf] to Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, expressing our support for new federal initiatives to prevent and address bullying in our nation’s schools. In these letters, HRC recommended 9 actions that the federal government can take to address bullying against LGBT students, those perceived to be LGBT or those from LGBT families. In addition, HRC joined a coalition of civil rights, religious, education, professional and civic organizations to submit policy and programming recommendations [pdf] for the summit conveners.
Bullying prevention is a critical issue to the LGBT community because LGBT students are disproportionately affected by bullying. According to a 2007 School Climate Survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation; more than 60 percent of LGBT students said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and more than a third of LGBT students felt unsafe because of their gender expression; nearly 45 percent of LGBT students reported being physically harassed in school because of their sexual orientation; and nearly one third of LGBT students nationwide said they had missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.
While it will not be easy to change the school environment, the engagement and cooperative action being taken by these agencies is a promising step. It is our hope that this first-of-its-kind bullying summit indicates that combating bullying in our nation’s schools, particularly against LGBT students, those perceived to be LGBT or those from LGBT families, is a priority for this Administration.