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On May 22, a coalition led by the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Project/First Amendment Center released Harassment, Bullying, and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools. While we welcome the opportunity to keep the anti-bullying conversation going, this particular entrée has a problem.
This morning I skipped the office and headed straight over to the Hill to witness history as the Supreme Court handed down its ruling upholding President Obama’s Affordable Care Act legislation. (Click here for the PFAW statement.)
In October and December of 2010, the Department of Education took a stand for LGBT youth by issuing guidance to address bullying in schools, especially as it relates to federal education anti-discrimination laws. One of those laws, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. While the language does not specify sexual orientation and gender identity, the Department has made clear that harassment on these grounds, under certain circumstances, violates Title IX.
Last month brought a similar ruling from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, establishing that gender identity employment discrimination violates sex discrimination protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, thus allowing the complaint filed by Mia Macy to proceed.
We view an endorsement of the Student Non-Discrimination Act as the next important step the administration should take in the ongoing federal effort to ensure that all students have access to an education unhindered by discrimination and harassment.
David and Tina Long wanted answers following their son’s 2009 suicide so they held a townhall meeting to address the bullying suffered by Tyler and his classmates. Though well-attended by parents, students, and community leaders alike, Bully highlights a troubling absence – school officials. It’s a sign that climate change is needed.
You see, bullying is an environmental problem. As director Lee Hirsch puts it:
It’s the whole ecosystem of the schools.
The R rating felt ridiculous. It was like R for Ridiculous.
That was what director Lee Hirsch had to say at last night’s Bully screening in DC regarding the ratings controversy that ended last week when an editing agreement was reached to get a PG-13 rating. (Shout out to Katy Butler for her successful Change.org petition that attracted more than 500,000 signers, including 35 Members of Congress and celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Meryl Streep.)
Hirsch is right. Rules are rules, but in this case, the R rating would have severely limited Bully's audience. These aren’t the “f” words that fly freely in other films. This is reality. This is what kids in schools are really saying to each other.
Indeed, Bully is a movie that should be shown as widely as possible. To teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. To the parents who are trying to get through to their children. To the kids who are bullied, the ones who do the bullying, and the adults who endure one or both scenarios and carry it with them for the rest of their lives.
In an effort to ensure equal opportunity, the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection surveys schools nationwide on a range of topics including staffing and finance; college and career readiness; and discipline. The most recent survey, for the 2009-2010 school year, asked about bullying and harassment for the first time in its 44-year history. The American Association of University Women analyzed the data on sex-based bullying and harassment.
Following the increased media attention paid to bullying-related suicides in 2010, Senator Al Franken took a strong stand on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and those who are perceived to be LGBT. His Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 555) protects them from school-based discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes. It recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and it provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.