Strength through Tragedy is a Lousy Way to Find Strength

I got picked on more than a little bit growing up. For all sorts of reasons, this kid who didn’t look quite right, had no idea how to play any sport on the P.E. docket, loved singing in the madrigal choir, and had a penchant for turtleneck shirt + cardigan combos throughout middle school was often a blaring, easy target for those who fit a more standard mold.

While there were classes that offered refuge, there were also spots within school where it was open season, even with a teacher nearby. Other kids would slip, fling, and hurl insults within earshot of teachers they knew wouldn’t speak up or offer consequences for what they’d heard.

I’ve thought about those moments quite a bit as an adult. They don’t haunt me, exactly, but they’re always there in cedar chest of my memories, preserved and ready to be pulled out should I ever need to admire where I’ve been.

As an adult, I’ve come to the conclusion that those teachers who let these moments play out weren’t callous and uncaring, as I thought they were at the time. Instead, I think it’s something worse. I think they thought I was learning a lesson. Character was under construction, and they didn’t need to step in.


As much as I love the person I’ve become and the life I’ve been able to explore so far, I wonder what it would have been like to go through school with adults who decided life was going to find legitimate ways to help me grow stronger through difficulty. Perhaps the character lessons in those classes and hallways cafeterias could have been directed at helping those who were insulting understand that the world didn’t need more jerks. Maybe the lesson could have been the value of being kind within a society.

Writing in Sunday’s Washington Post, Virgie Townsend expounds on this idea in ways more thoughtful than I can touch. Discussing scars of abuse I would have found much more devastating than the bullying I endured, Townsend writes:

By perpetuating the belief that pain is edifying, we place the onus on survivors to heal themselves — and we deemphasize the value of prevention and support services. Suffering is not what fortifies the soul or clears our vision. What makes people stronger is working with others to overcome trauma. Giving and receiving help gives suffering meaning, not the suffering alone.

Some educators I’ve met build classrooms or even schools around the exact opposite ideas Townsend writes against. When I see these in action, when I find myself in conversation with those who argue in favor practices, the reasoning always goes something along the lines of, “Well, I’m getting them ready for the real world.”

It seems to me that this approach only works to perpetuate that big, cruel world – not protect against it.

103/365 Bullying in Colorado: Part 7 of 7

This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.

What is to be Done?

The threat of bullying is visible. Schools with bullying cultures exhibit high rates of absenteeism, lower scores on academic exams, and reports from students of fear for their safety. Each news story that reports youth peer violence or teen suicide acts as a reminder of the work to be done. This series has worked to build an understanding of the policy, non-profit and academic work around issues of bullying in Colorado’s public schools. The State’s definition and reporting requirements around bullying are considered to be comparable to those of other states in the nation (Sacco, Baird, Silbaugh, Corredor, Casey, & Doherty, 2012; USDOE, 2011).

The law not only outlines a clear definition of bullying, but has been bolstered to include annual reporting requirements designed to longitudinally track incidents of bullying across Colorado’s schools as well. Additionally, the state has taken action to provide direct access for means of anonymously reporting bullying and channeling those reports to the proper authorities (CO, 16-15.8-101, 2007). Similarly, in the last decade, Colorado has seen an increase in non-profit activity aimed at stemming bullying in its schools. These efforts have provided financial support for school and community efforts (Colorado Trust, 2008; Colorado Legacy Foundation, 2011).

They have worked to bring the findings of their efforts to the public so that others involved in the work might benefit and avoid making early mistakes based on access to research that speaks specifically to the problem of bullying within Colorado schools.

At the national level, work has been done to provide a clear understanding of bullying within Colorado schools with protected classes (GLSEN, 2001) and across all youth populations (Levy et al., 2012; USDOE, 2011). These findings both point to a dire need for intervention if there is to be hope for making Colorado schools safe places of learning and community as well as speaking to which efforts and strategies have been successful across geographies.

At a more intimate level, social scientists have been working in individual schools to understand the cultures in which American youth are developing (Clark, 2007; Pascoe, 2011). They find a culture desperate for adult presence and a need for the adults already in learning spaces to be more mindful and caring in their language and actions. Their work puts a face on the numbers and statistics often attached to instances of bullying and the argument for greater efforts to fight it. Each of the pieces necessary to make a true and positive difference in the cultures and communities of Colorado schools is set in place.

The problem is identified and possible solutions have been tested and shared. The policy is in place to make these efforts central to the work of educators, and there is no lack of national data supporting such a focus.

Necessary now are two components. The first is a confluence of all of the above factors through an act of public will to make our schools safer. The second, and inevitable, component is the time it will take to move our schools from environments where students fear ridicule and harassment to spaces where they feel free, cared for, and accepted for who they are.

102/365 Bullying in Colorado: Part 6 of 7

This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.

Where is the Work Being Done?

Though the law established a state grant program for anti-bullying initiatives beginning in November 2011, as of this writing, no such office or program has been established. This is not to be taken as a lack of movement within the state toward responding to and preventing bullying. A number of state and national organizations have taken up the cause of keeping Colorado’s students safe in our schools and online.

Perhaps the most visible in Colorado is the work of the Colorado Legacy Foundation. In April of 2011, as 11-1254 was moving through the Legislature, the Legacy Foundation convened a Statewide Bullying Prevention Summit with the intent of learning from the experiences of efforts around the state and setting a way forward for eliminating bullying in Colorado schools. From that summit emerged “A Statewide Blueprint for Bullying Prevention.” This document draws from national and local findings from previous efforts and attempts to pull them all together toward a strategic vision.

Primarily, the document takes its framework from the 2011 “Best Practices in Bullying Prevention,” from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health And Human Services. The framework takes as its core tenets the following ten strategies:

  • Commit to provide leadership to create and sustain a positive, respectful school climate.
  • Form or identify an existing team to coordinate bullying prevention efforts.
  • Regularly assess and monitor school climate including the nature of bullying and effectiveness of bullying prevention efforts.
  • Garner staff, parent, and community support and build partnerships.
  • Establish or revise and enforce school policies and procedures related to best practices in bullying prevention and intervention.
  • Train all staff in bullying awareness, prevention, and appropriate intervention.
  • Increase active adult supervision in hot spots where bullying occurs.
  • Intervene immediately, consistently, equitably, and appropriately when bullying occurs.
  • Integrate time into academic and social activities for teaching students bullying prevention skills including awareness, responding, and reporting.
  • Continue to implement, monitor, and update bullying prevention efforts over time.

Not surprisingly, some version of these same strategies had been identified two years earlier in the results of the Colorado Trust’s program evaluation. The Trust’s learning curve had even identified possible bumps in the road such as their identification of parent and family involvement in anti-bullying work as extremely difficult.

Rather than taking the 10 strategies wholesale, the summit participants attempted a “frugal innovation” approach to changing school culture and behavior in the interest of preventing bullying. They identified three key strategies:

  1. Leverage existing state and district standards, data, and accountability structures,
  2. Build authentic partnerships with youth,
  3. Foster creative collaborations with families and community-based organizations.

From these three strategies, the Blueprint outlines specific activities schools and districts can implement to build stronger and safer community cultures. Not surprisingly, these activities and strategies include approaches that, like the Safe-2-Tell legislation, do not necessarily center around bullying behaviors, but take as their goal plotting a course to the kinds of communities that produce empathetic, active citizens rather than attempting to combat an unwanted behavior.

This preventative, proactive stance also aligns with the Colorado Trust’s concerns about the immovability of bullying attitudes and proclivities in high schools relative to elementary and middle schools. If schools and communities took the time to attend to positive behaviors early on, perhaps later-year bullying would no longer be a concern.

Nationally, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University in partnership with the Born This Way Foundation have dedicated a significant amount of resources to accomplishing a task similar to the mission of Colorado’s Department of Education’s efforts to aggregate and disseminate the best practices in bullying prevention. In “Bullying in a Networked Era: A Literature Review” Berkman outlined not only strategies for combating bullying behavior in schools, but illuminated the norms around bullying as well.

Drawing on more than 100 studies of bullying behavior from across the country, the literature review successfully describes the context, participants, and norms surrounding bullying behavior. Unlike the Legacy Foundation or Colorado Trust efforts that identified bullying as a problem and then offer solutions, Levy et al. worked to help educators understand the structures that might be in place within their learning organizations that could contribute to bullying behavior including gender norms, socio-economic status and others.

In addition to the efforts above, scholars and academics have started focusing their research more intently on the study of school cultures and bullying behaviors. In his 2005 book Hurt: Inside the world of today’s teenagers, Chap Clark engages in an ethnographic study of adolescents within a single school district in order that he might better understand the cultural and social forces shaping younger generations.

Clark describes what he finds as a collection of lost, forgotten, and invisible children. While some of his work points toward a golden age fallacy, Clark interprets what he finds as an indication that the youth he encounters have been left alone or ignored by adults who might otherwise be taking an active role in their lives. Such an understanding is similar to the Legacy Foundation’s contention of the importance of adults in young people’s live modeling and explicitly teaching the value of standing up to injustice and bullying.

In her 2011 Dude You’re a Fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school, C.J. Pascoe reported findings similar to Clarks, describing students’ frequent usage of the term “fag” to demean their fellow classmates. Such language was encountered so frequently, Pascoe claimed, that it often appeared as though community members did not register its use.

Pascoe also reported a norm outside of Clark’s contention of neglect. She wrote that adults within the school where she conducted her study were also implicit in creating environments of heteronormativity and homophobia that led to or passively authorized students’ bullying behaviors.

Such a claim matches with the GLSEN (2011) survey results. Twenty-seven percent of GLSEN survey respondents reported regularly hearing “staff make negative remarks about someone’s gender expression, and 18 percent regularly heard school staff make homophobic remarks” (p. 1).

The work of Clark, Pascoe, and other researchers attempting to document the lives and cultures of American schools with the goal of understanding norms, bullying, and how they are shaped brings a more localized and personal understanding to the work of bullying prevention. Combined with the work of state and national organizations, this research can provide a fuller perspective of the causes, effects, and strategies of prevention surrounding bullying behavior.

101/365 Bullying in Colorado: Part 5 of 7

This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.

Banning Bullying: Take II

If 01-080 stood as the Colorado Legislature’s attempt at showing its recognition of bullying as a problem in the State’s public schools, House Bill 11-1254 (11-1254) was its attempt at refining that recognition and taking measures to solve the problem. Sponsored by 35 legislators (5 of whom had also sponsored 01-080), the new bill filled in a number of the holes left by the State’s initial definition of bullying.

Seeing the initial requirement of schools to implement a policy regarding bullying, 11-1254 expanded its encouragement to schools to at minimum incorporate the “biennial administration of survey of students’ impressions of the severity of bullying in their schools  and character building.” It also suggested the formation of a team at each school to advise schools administrations “concerning the severity and frequency of bulling incidents that occur in the school.”

The bill also required schools not only to set forth a system of consequences for perpetrators of bullying, but to implement consequences for anyone who “takes any retaliatory action against a student who reports in good faith an incident of bullying” as well.

It was not enough to have a policy regarding bullying. The Legislature wanted schools to begin asking questions as to the need of that policy and what experts and community members might suggest schools do about their findings. Unfortunately, these were not requirements, as each of these actions was only “encouraged” according to the bill’s language.

From a practical standpoint, such wording is not surprising. It allows for the appearance of crafting policy that improves the reporting mechanisms within schools and protects students, while avoiding the creation of unfunded mandates. Logic dictates that only those schools with deeper pockets would be most likely to take the initiative to implement these suggestions.

The bill made simpler and more expansive the State’s definition of bullying as well. It included the electronic forms of bullying and extended bullying prevention to explicitly cover federal and state protected classes.  This expansion appears to have taken into consideration the Romer decision as well as state and national reports of suicide and violence against students who had been bullied as a result of their membership in these classes.

The bill also increased reporting requirements for schools. It added a report of incidents of bullying to the Safe School Reporting Requirements, moving from simply requiring schools to have a policy regarding bullying to holding schools accountable to the State. A paper trail would now be created to gather data in the interest of painting a clearer picture of the extent of bullying in Colorado schools. As helpful as this may seem, a review of 2011-2012 school and district reports from a handful of Colorado schools revealed few if any mentions of bullying incidents or any specific plan to prevent or combat bullying behavior.

Aside from refining previous work, 11-1254 also expanded the State’s official efforts to prevent bullying in its schools. The bill established the School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant Program. Charged with distributing collected funds to Colorado schools to aid “efforts to reduce the frequency of bullying incidents.” While 11-1254 did not allocate state funds to the creation of this program, it did allow for the securing of such funds through private and non-profit donations. Grant recipients would be required to use a portion of the allocated money to educate parents and schools’ local communities and implement the bill’s suggested actions.

Though the bill established a cash fund within the state budget for the operation of this grant program, it did not require the allotment of state monies to that fund. Additionally, it allowed for the acceptance of private and non-profit donations, but made clear that it was not requiring attempts at procuring such funds.

In short, the grant program required intentional inclusion of funding in the state budget or on the fortuitous goodwill of private organizations or citizens to begin its funding. Again, such a move gives the appearance of action on the part of the Legislature, but avoids the actual funding of that action.

If funding or lack of funding were the contingencies upon which the majority of the intended effects of 11-1254 relied, at least one portion of the bill was written without any funding entanglements. Filling in a missing component of 01-080, the new bill required the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to “continually make publicly available evidence-based best practices and other resources for educators and other professionals engaged in bullying prevention and education.”

The CDE was also mandated to “solicit evidence-based best practices and other resources” from all relevant state education groups and post them online. One such agency was the School Safety Resource Center. The new bill expanded the mission of the Center to specifically include the gathering and dissemination of bully-related research in the interest of making it more widely available to all relevant education agents. This joined Colorado with only a handful of other states that included such best-practice requirements in their anti-bullying laws or policies.

Finally, reflecting the changing educational landscape between 2001 and 2011, 11-1254 laid out anti-bullying requirements for the states charter schools, many of which had not existed when the State first defined bullying. These requirements were the same in the letter and scope of the portion of the new law as it addressed regular public schools and ensured that all Colorado students attending any type of public school enjoyed the same bullying protections.

On the whole, 11-1254 moved Colorado toward a more comprehensive approach to lessening bullying occurrences within its schools by expanding its definition of bullying behaviors and explicit inclusion of students belonging to protected classes.

With a notion to help schools develop their best practices in bullying prevention, the bill also established a grant program for helping to fund that development, though it did not fund the grant program outright.

Still, despite its funding failings, the bill did prioritize bullying prevention efforts for the CDE by requiring the department to seek out, evaluate, and provide the state’s schools with access to the latest research best practices in bullying prevention.

100/365 Bullying in Colorado: Part 4 of 7

This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.

Making it Safe-To-Tell

Standing on the initial 2001 bullying law and amid the work of the Colorado Trust, the Colorado Legislature made an important move in 2007 to make it easier for the victims of bullying and those witnessing bullying to speak up and alert authorities. Senate Bill 07-197 created Colorado’s Safe-2-Tell Hotline.  Based off of U.S. Secret Service reports that “in 75 percent of dangerous or violent incidents in schools, someone other than the attacker knew the incident was going to happen but did not report or act on that knowledge,” the hotline was an extension of the national Safe-2-Tell program.

The hotline was established “with the primary purpose of providing students, teachers, other school employees, and the community with a means to relay information anonymously…”

Though no mention of an intent to prevent or act as a reporting mechanism specifically for incidents of bullying was described in the establishment of the hotline, such benefits were listed in the enumeration of the successes of the national program. Indeed, it should be taken as a sign of increasing safety whenever an act of prevention is established by policymakers.

Perhaps it was for the best that bullying was not mentioned as some adults and youth could be unclear as to what constitutes bullying. The hotline leaves to the authorities the decision of whether an act is bullying or not and takes that responsibility out of witnesses’ and victims’ hands.

99/365 Bullying in Colorado: Part 3 of 7

This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.

Colorado’s Trust in Anti-Bullying

Absent specific action by the Legislature and given the variance in school and district policies given the lack of specific guidance by SB 01-080, the grant-making foundation The Colorado Trust stepped in in 2005 with a four-year anti-bullying initiative that allocated $8.6 million to 45 grantees and 78 schools across 40 of Colorado’s 64 counties. Districts, schools, and community organizations receiving these funds reported reaching approximately 50,000 Coloradans through their efforts.

Arguably more important than the reach of the Trust’s initiative were its results. Through an independent evaluation that included surveys of approximately 6,000 student and 1,500 adults, focus groups with students, and in-depth interviews with grantees, the Trust’s Bullying Prevention Initiative (BPI) found positive results in reports of school context and culture as well as decreases in reports of bullying behavior following the enactment of its funded efforts.

From the Trust’s independent evaluation of BPI, several key findings were uncovered that stretched across grantees. Chief among these was the need for anti-bullying efforts to be integrated into the daily operations of learning spaces rather than as add-on or auxiliary programs that might be seen as in competition with other school programs. The Trust also found that anti-bullying efforts were most difficult in high school and that it “may be too late by then anyway” (2008). In the Findings Report, the Trust reported, “High school, however, grows more complex because bullying occurs below the adult radar – such as cyberbullying. Students also are less likely to ask adults to intervene unless they have trusted adults to help them” (2008, p. 4).

This finding is of particular interest for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the use of the term cyberbullying though online spaces were not included in the State’s initial definition of bullying. The finding speaks to the holes in the State’s attempt to protect its youth from bullying. Also notable is the research’s determination of the increased difficulty of alleviating bullying in students’ later years of schooling. While significant improvements in preventing bullying were reported across elementary and middle school populations, such shifts were more difficult in high schools.

Unfortunately, the Trust’s study concluded in 2008, so the ability to evaluate the possible persistence of the Initiative’s effects is impossible.  This leaves on the table the question of whether implementing the efforts that were successful in creating safer schools in the younger years could have the double effect of making older students safer as well. Later, this paper will examine those efforts found to be successful by the Trust and other similar organizations.

Finally, while claims of causation are doubtful, the Trust found a positive correlation between schools with below-average instances of bullying and above-average CSAP scores. “Almost 33 percent of schools below the average frequency of bullying in the first year of the initiative were above the average CSAP score, while only 14 percent of schools reporting a higher frequency of bullying were above the average CSAP score” (p. 7). This finding is not surprising. One would expect students attending schools where they experience less fear for their safety would have greater access to learning and achievement. Still, such a finding is helpful to those policymakers whose decisions are driven by test scores rather than a more holistic understanding of students.

In 2009, the Colorado Trust ended its anti-bullying grant program, and turned its funding to other programmatic goals it saw as aligned to its mission. Still, in the five years of funding and research, the Trust was able to gather information that painted a clearer picture of bullying in Colorado schools than had previously existed and added to the burgeoning corpus of research dedicated to understanding how to prevent and reduce bullying in schools.

98/365 Bullying in Colorado: Part 2 of 7

This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.

Colorado’s Opening Volley

While it was certainly present within the state prior to legislative mention, bullying was first mentioned in by the Colorado Legislature in 2001 with the passage of Senate Bill 01-080 (SB 01-080). This bill revised state statute 22-32-109.1 (2) by adding a new subparagraph which defined bullying in Colorado as “any written or verbal expression, or physical act or gesture, or a pattern thereof, that is intended to cause distress upon one or more students in the school, on school grounds, in school vehicles, at a designated school bus stop, or at school activities or sanctioned events. The school district’s policy shall include a reasonable balance between the pattern and the severity of such bullying behavior.”  This new subparagraph also instituted a requirement of schools’ Safe School Plans in that they would now need to include “a specific policy concerning bullying prevention and education.”

This initial legislative effort to address bullying can be characterized as a first try ample in good faith but insufficient in action. In its analysis, the USDOE stated, “[L]egislation that defines prohibited bullying behaviors, and specifies graduated and substantial sanctions, will often require extensive implementation procedures, such as reporting requirements, investigation, and procedures for implementing the sanction (e.g. expulsion)” (xvi).

Colorado’s 2001 measure defined the behaviors to be understood as bullying, but left specific sanctions to school or district level decision-makers with the only guidance that there should be a plan and it should include considerations of patterns and severity of bullying behaviors.

As it went into effect August 8, 2001, SB 01-080 made bullying a legally identified offense in Colorado schools and required schools to include plans to keep their students safe by preventing and educating them about bullying.

It did not identify means for or require the reporting of bullying incidents in schools, take steps to provide Colorado youth with an avenue to report bullying, or make any mention of the inclusion of research-based methods of bullying prevention.

Perhaps most disconcerting was the lack of any mention of protected classes within this initial bill, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Romer v. Evans in 1996 (517 U.S. 620) which allowed for the inclusion of protected classes in such legislation. Specifically of interest here were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth.

According to the results of the 2011 School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), “56% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school never reported it to school staff, and 62% never told a family member about the incident. Among students who did report incidents to school authorities, only 34% said that reporting resulted in effective intervention by staff” (p. 1).

Such bullying reflects not only a hostile environment for these students, but the unwillingness to report such incidents to their families exemplifies the double isolation of this group of students as well. Doubtless, other instances of feelings of depreciated safety exist among students in other protected classes, but no statewide school-based statistics are available at this time.

In short, SB 01-080 took steps ostensibly intended to reduce bullying and increase student perceptions of their safety within Colorado schools, but did not take advantage of the Legislature’s full power nor did it move to help schools and districts understand specifics of what they could do to protect students.

97/365 Bullying in Colorado: Part 1 of 7

This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.

Why This Matters

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center, from 2005 through 2010, the state of Colorado saw 256 suicides of teens between 15 and 19 years old. While the state does not track reported causes of suicides, a 2011 United States Department of Education (USDOE) “Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies,” suggests school violence and other negative physical and mental consequences are “often linked explicitly or by inference to bullying.”

While not all of Colorado’s teen suicides are likely at least partially linked to bullying, the USDOE analysis specifically cites Colorado’s 1999 Columbine High School shooting as “the first of many high-profile incidents of violent behavior that appeared to implicate bullying as an underlying cause” (ix). The analysis goes on to cite several youth suicides across the country as “linked to chronic bullying” (ix).

Given the tragic national and state implications of inattention to bullying, it is increasingly important to understand anti-bullying legislation and related actions within the state of Colorado as a means for understanding the issue’s status in the state and as a parallel for efforts around the nation.

33/365 We Need More Heroes

Matt Langdon is doing great work, and more people should know about it. Rather than engage in the anti-bullying conversation as it stands, Langdon and the other members of the Hero Construction Company are re-framing the language and working to help students see themselves of heroes and champions of society. The HCC takes as its guiding language, the work of Dr. Philip Zimbardo of Stanford:

ZimbardoIt’s a conversation we would all do well to take up today – as soon as possible. Lest you think the barrage of anti-bullying legislation and temporarily-increased conversation about how we work to create safe spaces for those students on the margins of our schools has created a culture shift such that we can lay down our worries, there is the story of Portland teen Jadin Bell who died following his suicide attempt weeks ago.

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There is much work to be done, and the consequence of failing to do this work will be the death of other teens who cannot find their way out of the darkness nor recognize those in their lives capable of providing the support they need.

We need more heroes like those Langdon and HCC are working to create, and like New Jersey teen Jacob Rudolph who did more than accept his school’s superlative award for Class Actor when he took the podium, but pronounced he would no longer play the role of “straight Jacob” in hopes of inspiring other LGBT teens across the country who were facing similar struggles. We need heroes like Jacob and like his father, the one holding the camera below and whose text shows his reaction to his son’s speech is one of pride in his son and shame in a culture who would criticize this act of bravery.

We need more heroes.

Bullying now Constitutionally Mandated in North Carolina

Bullying is now legally mandated in North Carolina. With the passage of the State’s Amendment One creating a constitutional ban on marriage between anyone other than a man and a woman, the people of North Carolina have added their state to the list of those successfully creating a legal protection of bullying.

I’m borrowing my definition of bullying here. Let me be more specific:

…bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.

It’s a bit specific, I grant you, but I take bullying fairly seriously. So, as it turns out, does the North Carolina Legislature. They were the ones who crafted and approved the language above as law in 2009 as part of Senate Bill 526 or “The Anti-Bullying Law.” The law works to keep students safe in North Carolina schools and makes illegal those acts within school walls that would have students feel less-than because of who they are or are perceived to be.

Students and teachers in North Carolina are not allowed to bully students and teachers.

That is the job of the electorate.

If you think Amendment One doesn’t qualify as bullying as defined by state law, you’re wrong. If you think Amendment One doesn’t “Create or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits” (again, their words, not mine), you’re wrong. If you think LGBT students across North Carolina didn’t wake up feeling their entire state had joined their classmates, community members, and even families in thinking there was something wrong with their fundamental identities, you’re wrong. If you think that this measure doesn’t add to the desperation, hopelessness, and shame many students wrongly feel they must suffer through alone, you’re dangerously wrong.

Amendment One and other measures like it are publicly-sanctioned, legally sani-wrapped bullying.

Opposite-sex marriage in North Carolina may have been better protected this morning, but the children of the state were not.