Month: August 2010

US Education Department’s Kevin Jennings to Call for National Plan to Deal with Bullying

Kevin Jennings, the openly gay Assistant Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Education, will issue “a call to action for a comprehensive national effort to address bullying during the 2010-2011 school year by all summit participants” on Thursday, according to a press release from the Department of Education.  The call to action will close out a two-day summit in Washington DC, the goal of which is “to engage governmental and nongovernmental partners in crafting a national strategy to reduce and end bullying.”

Bullying has lead to so many suicides there is now a new term for it – “Bullycide.”

CORRECTED AND UPDATED:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the summit Wednesday morning, saying “No school can be a great school until it is a safe school first.”

Here are excerpts from Duncan’s address, now posted on the Department of Education’s website:

The Myths About Bullying: Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks at the Bullying Prevention Summit

“For the record, let me state my basic, operating premise, both in Chicago and Washington DC: No student should feel unsafe in school. Take that as your starting point, and then it becomes inescapable that school safety is both a moral issue, and a practical one.

The moral issue is plain. Every child is entitled to feel safe in the classroom, in the hallways of school, and on the playground. Children go to school to learn, and educational opportunity must be the great equalizer in America. No matter what your race, sex, or zip code, every child is entitled to a quality education and no child can get a quality education if they don’t first feel safe at school.

It is an absolute travesty of our educational system when students fear for their safety at school, worry about being bullied, or suffer discrimination and taunts because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or a host of other reasons.

The job of teachers and principals is to help students learn and grow—and they can’t do that job in schools where safety is not assured.

[cut]

Bullying is epidemic in urban, suburban, and rural schools. The statistics are frankly staggering. In 2007, nearly one out of three students in middle school and high school reported that they had been bullied at school during the school year. That means that 8.2 million students a year are suffering at the hands of bullies in school.

[Cut]

In 2007, more than 900,000 secondary students reported being cyber-bullied. Cyber-bullying allows bullies to do their work at a distance, outside of schools, in front of a broad audience and sometimes under the protection of anonymity. New technologies provide bullies with new tools to hurt students in old ways.

[Cut]

Ultimately, bullying is really a form of physical and mental abuse. If you don’t stop it when it starts, it usually spreads.

A powerful testament to the fact that bullying is not part of the natural order of things is that most people can remember, even decades later, the feeling of being bullied or bullying another individual. Or they may feel haunted by the memory of standing by while a friend or classmate was bullied.”

Duncan was joined at the first-ever bullying summit Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 11-12, at the Washington Hilton Hotel, by governmental and nongovernmental representatives to craft “a national strategy to reduce and end bullying, the release said. In addition to Jennings, who heads the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, other participants are: Assistant Secretary for the Office for Civil Rights Russlyn Ali,  Administrator Mary Wakefield of the Health Resources and Services Administration; Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin; Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli; other representatives from the U.S. departments of Justice (DOJ), Agriculture (USDA), Defense (DOD) and Interior (DOI); superintendents; researchers; corporate leaders; community partners; and students.

The summit will focus on three areas, according to the release: “Research (what we know and additional gaps we need to fill); Programs (which programs work in combating bullying and areas where further programmatic development is needed); and Policy (how can policy at the local, state and federal levels help prevent bullying).” The release also says that the Education Department has “stepped up its efforts to address bullying to include a new Safe and Supportive Schools grant program,” a pilot program that federal funds “for interventions in those schools with the greatest needs.”

Jennings, who founded the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) –says in a statement:

“Bullying behavior is not only troubling in and of itself but if left unaddressed, can quickly escalate into harassment, violence and tragedies. We hope this summit will help us get ahead of the game by focusing on prevention and doing everything we can to bring this plague to an end.”

Here’s MetroWeekly’s recent story on Jennings.

Lest we think bullycide only impacts the families of the kids who commit suicide – here’s a video by a 14 year old identified as pinkmints who “understands the pain” of the young people who would rather die than endure another day of bullying.

Ann Coulter Headlines GOProud’s ‘Homocon’ in NYC

During my reporting last Monday on GOProud’s weekend event in San Diego to break the boycott against the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel, I posited that the five-month old gay conservative group may turn out to be the right-wing counter-point to the left-wing direct action group GetEqual – by shaking up “the norm” and provoking discussion, if nothing else.

Well, Friday, the Washington DC-based GOProud announced that conservative author Ann Coulter is headlining the group’s first annual Homocon, which they described as “a party to celebrate gay conservatives.”

From Christopher Barron, Chairman of the Board of GOProud:

“The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics, with their endless list of boycotts and protests.  Homocon is going to be our annual effort to counter the ‘no fun police’ on the left. I can’t think of any conservative more fun to headline our inaugural party then the self-professed ‘right-wing Judy Garland’ – Ann Coulter.

I can promise you, Homocon 2010 will be a hell of a lot more fun than chaining yourself to the White House fence.”

Coulter – who is known for throwing verbal firebombs – ignited a firestorm of controversy after referring to former presidential candidate John Edwards as a “faggot” in 2007 during comments at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards,” she said, speaking to an overflow room of activists.

Media Matters notes a slew of  Coulter remarks in which she uses antigay slurs. Coulter fans say she’s just being funny. You decide. Here she is talking about Kevin Jennings, former head of GLSEN who’s now with the US Department of Education.

Homocon 2010 will take place in New York City on the evening of Saturday September 25th.  VIP Sponsorships are available for $2500 and general admission tickets go on sale August 20th.  To purchase tickets or for more information:  www.goproud.org.