Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Second Annual Bullying Summit: Focusing on Next Steps

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

In 2001, The Learning First Alliance wrote a report titled “Every Child Learning: Safe and Supportive Schools – A Summary,” which advocated for systemic approaches to supporting positive behavior in our nation’s schools. The Alliance argued for school-wide approaches to improving school climate, safety and discipline: “In a safe and supportive learning community, civility, order, and decorum are the norms and antisocial behaviors such as bullying and taunting are clearly unacceptable.” Ten years later, schools across the nation continually contend with the harsh and terrifying realities of bullying and the sad reality is that we still have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring a safe and supportive environment for our nation’s children. Fortunately, recent attention to the issue suggests that we are all beginning to take important steps in the right direction.  Today and tomorrow, the U.S Department of Education is hosting the second summit on bullying with the goal of bringing governmental and non-governmental entities together to identify next steps based on anti-bullying efforts and outcomes since the first summit was held a year ago.  This continued leadership, on the federal level, is precisely what’s needed to keep attention focused on this important issue.

Everyone has a role to play when it concerns the health and well-being of children. Research suggests that the full range of bullying’s effects are not yet known. In addition to the daily torments that result in up to 160,000 absences a day, a recent study suggests that the long-term effects may include changes in the still developing adolescent brain. Academically, the realities of bullying create a distracting and anxiety filled atmosphere that can easily impact a student’s performance with particularly negative effects on high-achieving black and Latino students. Finally, news stories of students driven to suicide – such as Phoebe Prince from South Hadley, MAHope Witsell of Ruskin/Hillsborough, FL and Alexa Berman from Brookfield, CT - suggest that bullying, when left unchecked, can be deadly.

Anti-bullying programs that focus on individuals do not create and guarantee the type of safe community that the Learning First Alliance believes every child has the right to expect. It takes a school-wide effort to combat the insidious nature of bullying tactics in the hallways, cafeteria, bathrooms and the classroom. Parents, administrators, teachers and counselors must work together to ensure that children have the best possible environment to learn, grow and realize their potential. To that end, The Learning First Alliance has compiled a summary of our members’ resources on bullying designed to raise awareness and empower each person in a child’s life to be a vocal advocate for their health and safety – we are only as effective as we are united in our efforts.