|ADL Letter & Recommendations to Federal Agencies Regarding Bullying and Cyberbullying
The following letter was sent to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
In advance of the August 11-12 Federal Bullying Prevention Summit, the Anti-Defamation League is pleased to submit the following policy and programming recommendations for Federal action.
Over the past decade, the League has built on its award-winning anti-bias education and training initiatives and become a leading national source for innovative programming and advocacy to address bullying and the pernicious new form of harassment affecting children and students known as cyberbullying.
Bullying and harassment in elementary and secondary educational settings is a continuing problem for school districts, parents, and students across the nation. In addition, cyberbullying is on the rise, as an increasing number of youth are misusing Internet and cell phone technology to bully, harass, and even incite violence against others. For some perpetrators, online cruelty and other forms of bullying may be a precursor to more destructive behavior, including involvement in hate groups and bias-related violence.
The impact of bullying has been well documented – studies have shown that difficulty making friends, loneliness, low self-esteem, depression, poor academic achievement, and truancy are all associated with being bullied.
The Federal government, in partnership with non-profit and community organizations, can play a critical role in ensuring that our schools and communities are safe places for all students. Federal leadership on these important issues helps nurture a climate and a culture in which most members of the community are willing to condemn bigotry, bullying, and harassment.
We believe that while laws and appropriate, inclusive school-based policies can be a focal point for addressing bullying, education strategies, training programs, and community involvement are necessary complements to any effective response.
We urge you to build on these recommendations to develop, fund, and promote proactive strategies to confront bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment in schools and in the community.
We look forward to working with you and other Administration officials on this important issue.
Director, Education Division
|Deborah M. Lauter
Director, Civil Rights Division
Anti-Defamation League Bullying and Cyberbullying Recommendations
1) Programs and Training Initiatives
- The Department of Education, working with the Department of Justice, should develop and distribute a model anti-bullying policy.
- The Federal government should require the adoption of an anti-bullying policy for school personnel and students in every state through its programs and conferences.
ADL has developed a Model Bullying/Cyberbullying Prevention Statute that is inclusive, comprehensive, and sufficiently protective of the First Amendment. A strong and comprehensive anti-bullying statute will:
- include a strong definition of bullying, which includes cyberbullying;
- address bullying motivated by race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics;
- include notice requirements for students and parents;
- set out clear reporting procedures;
- require regular training for teachers and for students about how to recognize and respond to bullying and cyberbullying.
- The Department of Education, working with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies, should institutionalize and coordinate anti-bullying/cyberbullying prevention and response programs within their safe schools/healthy schools and school-related violence prevention initiatives.
- Federal agencies should provide resources, fund, develop, and promote programming and training initiatives – including Webinars – for teachers, administrators, parents, students, state Attorneys General, law enforcement officials (school resource officers in particular) and others in the community on how to recognize and respond to bullying, harassment, and cyberbullying.
Most school systems lack adequate funding for personnel to design, implement, and staff these prevention and response programs. Anti-bullying programs and initiatives must address this significant barrier.
2) Research, Reports, and Data Collection Initiatives
- The Federal government should make information available regarding effective bullying, cyberbullying, and hate crime prevention programs and resources – and promote awareness of successful training initiatives and best practices.
Successful policies are both proactive and responsive, and prompt the community to act. The Administration should also commend and highlight state and local efforts to carry out effective anti-bias education programs.
- In conjunction with academic institutions, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice should fund research into the nature and magnitude of the bullying/cyberbullying problem in America, specifically its impact on both the social and emotional health of students and the impact on academic achievement.
Bullying can have a devastating effect on the lives of teenagers:
- According to a 2009 MTV/AP survey, 60% of young people who have been bullied report destructive behavior such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs or shoplifting (compared to 48% of those not bullied);
- Bullied students are 3 times more likely to drop out of school and 1.5-2 times more likely to have attempted suicide (Patchin and Hinjudja, Cyberbullying and Suicide, 2009).
- The Department of Education’s National Center on Education Statistics, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Department of Health and Human Services – including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – should update and coordinate reporting requirements and data collection efforts on bullying and cyberbullying. Possible reforms include:
3) Media Literacy and Public Awareness Initiatives
- The Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights and the National Association of Attorneys General should update their excellent 1999 report, Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime.
This detailed guide promoted a comprehensive approach to protecting students from harassment and hate-motivated violence and included sample policies and procedures from across the nation. The updated report should integrate resources to address cyberbullying.
- The Federal government should provide resources for parents to inform them regarding the prevalence of bullying on social networking sites and through cell phone use.
Despite the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying, many adults are unaware of the problem due to a lack of fluency in new technologies, limited involvement in and oversight of youth online activity, and strong social norms among youth against disclosure of online behavior. Therefore, it is critical to develop programming for teachers, parents and other critical partners on how to recognize and respond to cyberbullying. There is considerable misunderstanding about harassment, students’ free speech rights on the Internet, and when “kids will be kids” goes too far. Current research indicates that less than one-third of parents are aware of available tools, such as parental controls that can help them protect their children from online threats.
- The Department of Health and Human Services should update Internet resources published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), including resources at both its kids Web site Stop Bullying Now!, and its companion site for adults, specifically with regard to cyberbullying resources and response.
The Stop Bullying Now! Web site is rich and well-crafted, but little known. The Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice should coordinate their online resources and provide easily accessible links to a range of available government and community resources.
- Working with youth-oriented private corporations – such as MTV, Nickelodeon, YouTube, and Facebook – the Federal government should promote programs and awareness of the nature and magnitude of the bullying/cyberbullying problem.
Facebook alone reaches 500 million registered users worldwide each month. Public awareness and Ad Council campaigns and programming partnerships with corporations such as Facebook, MTV, and Nickelodeon can leverage their standing with youth to encourage young people to speak out against harassment and bullying and promote responsible online behavior.
- Internet providers should clearly define prohibited hate speech and prohibit the use of hate in any Terms of Service agreement.
No provider of Internet services, social networking or user-submitted content sites should ignore the fact that these sites can become vehicles for promoting harassment and hate. Web sites should establish clear, user-friendly reporting mechanisms for reporting hateful content and act quickly to remove or sequester hateful content once it is reported.
4) Public Advocacy Supporting Anti-Bullying and Hate Crime Prevention Initiatives
- The Federal government should promote Internet media literacy – specifically programs to help develop students’ critical thinking skills for Internet, viral, and wireless communications.
For most teenagers, Internet use is a part of daily life. We should promote civil discourse on the Internet and should teach young people how to identify risks and engage in critical thinking for Web-based research and communications. Students should be trained on how to use electronic communications in a responsible manner, how to develop empathy for others, and how to intervene safely and not be a bystander when confronted with bullying and harassment.
- The Justice Department and the FBI should work collaboratively with civil rights and community-based groups and law enforcement organizations to ensure comprehensive and effective implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), with particular attention to the new requirement that the FBI collect hate crime statistics committed by and against juveniles.
The HCPA provides new tools to promote partnerships between Federal and state and local officials to confront hate violence. The passage of the HCPA provides a teachable moment for the country on the impact of hate violence and bullying – and effective responses. ADL resources on hate crimes and the HCPA can be found at www.adl.org/combating_hate.
- The White House should consider hosting a National Youth Bullying/Cyberbullying Summit.
The Federal Government should make every effort to engage young people in an advocacy role on these issues. A “National Youth Bullying Summit” could help organize student leaders to promote discussions surrounding effective ways students can combat harassment and bigotry in their own school and to bring awareness to successful efforts nationwide.
- Government leaders and public officials should use their bully pulpit to condemn bullying/cyberbullying, bigotry and bias-motivated violence whenever and wherever it arises.
Strong leadership from Federal officials can help create a climate and a culture in which other members of the community are willing to condemn bigotry and combat bullying, hate, and harassment. Efforts to advocate for strong hate crimes laws, comprehensive hate crime data collection, and better understanding between different communities are a vital part of these efforts.