Will a federal focus on bullying solve the problem?

There’s been a lot of buzz on listservs about Kevin Jennings, who Monday takes over as head of the U.S. Department of Education’s office of safe and drug-free schools.

Jennings – best known as the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network – is expected to place heavy emphasis on combating the verbal and physical bullying many students experience in school.

Many school safety experts have said school officials need to understand that taunts, threats and other forms of verbal abuse can be just as disruptive as weapons and drugs in school. Both, they said, make it difficult for students to learn.

Some experts said they expect Jennings to focus on ways to decrease bullying in school and to teach students tolerance.

Bullying is often an issue here. In April an 11-year-old hanged himself and his family blamed the suicide on the excessive bullying they said he received at Dunaire Elementary School in Stone Mountain.

An investigation followed with a taskforce concluding that Jaheem Herrera wasn’t specifically targeted for bullying.

What can the federal government do to eliminate bullying? What pressure can they place on states and local school districts?

25 comments Add your comment


June 30th, 2009
9:25 am

Bullying is one of the “crimes” that is defined by the victim. I’ve heard claims that childish name calling is tantamount to bullying. I’ve also heard claims by parents that the bullying child was being bullied by the offended party. Teachers that keep a watchful eye (and ear) toward the happenings in the classroom and on the playground can intervene before things get out of hand. It is, unfortunately, all too easy for people to point fingers at a school after the fact.

I have a bad feeling about what may come from the feds, especially in light of Mr. Jennings background. We do not need an activist “tolerance” agenda being pushed into the schools. Our jobs should remain focused on teaching children how to read, write and think mathematically.


June 30th, 2009
9:27 am

Yepp…perhaps the “hate” crime statutes can be extended to include ages K4 thru 10th grade. This is just a load of Horse Manure.


June 30th, 2009
10:11 am

Straight from Jennings’ GLSEN webpage;

“Sign GLSEN’s petition and tell Congress to stand up for LGBT youth and all students who endure anti-gay bullying.”

I’m assuming LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.

Tony’s fears are well founded. This guy will push his activist agenda down our throats (uh, not that there’s anything wrong with that) and the emphasis will shift from schoolyard bullying to the homosexual bullying agenda that Jennings espouses.

Change we can believe in. I guess it’s true.

Joy in Teaching

June 30th, 2009
10:32 am

Anything that the Feds mandate about education end up morphing into an overcomplicated, out of control machine that doesn’t resemble any of its earlier intent.

I can just see yet another pile of paperwork being heaped on my desk this year.


June 30th, 2009
10:42 am

Joy – you’ve hit that nail squarely on the head. The headaches of “equity” are hitting the fan in our district today. While the idea of “equity” in education sounds quite altruistic, the implementation is going to be a nightmare.

Better things to do

June 30th, 2009
1:48 pm

When we are willing as a society to address any misbehavior, including bullying, with swift, sure, and compelling consequences, that’s when we will finally be willing to honestly address it.

Any other conversation is just that. A conversation. A conversation that honestly, isn’t worth having. So I’m gone.

Old School

June 30th, 2009
3:44 pm

“Will a federal focus on bullying solve the problem?”

Has federal focus solved ANY local problem so far? Have any responses on this blog (or any other) made a difference other than allowing us to vent anonymously?

Having said that, I agree with Tony, Joy in Teaching, and Better things to do, but I will happily return to teaching this next school year anyway.

Concerned Teacher

June 30th, 2009
5:33 pm

Old School took the words out of my mouth. Federal intervention will accomplish 3 things 1) allow a committee to come up with the latest and greatest cure-all (including a great acronym) 2) give this group of people job security for another 3-5 years and 3) add another staff development seminar that teachers have to sit through


June 30th, 2009
9:07 pm

When was the last time the federal government solved a ‘LOCAL’ problem? Parents can solve the problem! Even some school administrators and teachers can solve the problem! BUT, school administrators will have to tell parents that their snowflakes are misbehaving, and either they take action, or the school will be forced to take action, which could include calling in law enforcement. The problem is that too many parents allow their kids to run wild, and are WAY TOO permissive. Public school administrators and teachers have their hands tied by ostriches on school boards who are afraid they might lose a vote! And, way too many administrators love hiding behind BOEs!! But, folks, DO NOT COUNT ON Fed doing one thing — other than burning additional tax dollars for more bureaucrats totally removed from the local bullying!


June 30th, 2009
9:10 pm

Atlanta Falcons’ Defensive End Chauncey Davis, DeKalb Juvenile Court Judge Desiree Peagler, DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May and more spoke to nearly 100 youth at the Browns Mill Road Recreation Center on June 5. Davis, along with Commissioner May and Judge Peagler, launched a special anti-bullying campaign aimed at youth in the Atlanta Metro area. The event focused on both resources for victims of bullying and consequences of those who bully others.

billy bob

June 30th, 2009
9:41 pm

Homosexuals working with children. Puke.

km nelson

June 30th, 2009
10:22 pm

What about bullying BEFORE the fact. My grandson is living with his father in Colorado who is teaching him to bully people. He is in first grade and has already been suspended from school 3 times and had in school suspension 7 times for kicking, hitting, etc other students and verbally abusing the teacher.. Yet when we try to get the school and the court system to see that this is a monumental problem waiting to happen, the school turns a deaf ear and says they can’t get involved. So when will they get involved? After he causes another Columbine?


June 30th, 2009
10:38 pm

Just what we need…more federal involvement in education. I can’t believe that I have to go through 11 more years of this garbage before I retire. When I first started teaching was FUN!!! Well TEACHING is STILL FUN, but all the other stupid, inconsistent, illogical mandates that we have to deal with make it hard to go to school every day.

It was bad enough when MY PARTY was in charge, but these obamacrats are not going to stop until they control every aspect of our lives.


June 30th, 2009
10:40 pm

I vote ‘no’…

Straight-talking Dad

July 1st, 2009
12:00 am

Y’all sound like a buncha homophobes. If your kid’s not bullying anyone, including gays, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. But from the way you’re expressing yourselves, your kids might be getting the wrong message about bullying and gay tolerance. I am a straight father of two kids who neither bully nor are they bullied. Set your example of tolerance at home, and get over your fears of living with everyone who’s different from you.


July 1st, 2009
12:06 am

I suppose none of you have a child that has been bullied?!?!? It is very hurtful. Bullying interferes with the child’s ability to learn. When a student is so worried about what will be done or said to him after class he can’t pay attention to instruction. The best teacher in the world who is “focused on teaching children how to read, write and think mathematically” can’t help that child learn! Take politics out and put the children first!!!

R. C. Rousseau

July 1st, 2009
12:29 am

It is interesting to note that according to Muckety, Kevin Jennings was a “bundler” for the Obama campaign. According to them, he raised at least $50,000+ http://news.muckety.com/2008/09/17/obama-less-than-transparent-when-it-comes-to-disclosing-bundler-info/5062
Here is an unflattering view of Kevin Jennings from the Ayn Rand devotees….
His own past actions are so controversial; how will he be able to unite the citizens in this endeavor to reduce crime in schools?


July 1st, 2009
12:52 am

As always, it goes back to the parents. The parents of most bullys rarely give a darn that their kid is a bully. In their eyes, the fault is with the victim for not standing up to their bully.

If a law is passed, the punishment should be on the parents of the guilty bully. Maybe, just maybe, this will wake up some of these horrible parents out there.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

July 1st, 2009
2:27 am

Bullying against our school kids will decrease markedly when competent, caring, courageous teachers and other school personnel no longer turn blind eyes and deaf ears to it.


July 1st, 2009
7:33 am

Bullying will also cease when you Johnny Milktoast, spineless doo doo gooder parents teach your kids some self-defense. Being a “tattle-tale” is the worst thing the “victim” should do as it will only lead to bullying by more kids.

A good punch in the nose usually will end squabbles betwixt and between youngsters. Its a pretty simple issue that doesnt cost millions to solve or needs some bloviating/posturing beauracratic involvement.

Remember…Opey had to kick some tail and it worked.

Washington, DC progressive

July 1st, 2009
9:24 am

Disclaimer: I work on this issue as an advocate at the federal level, on behalf of a professional association.

Many of the criticisms about federal overreaching hold water, but one of the proposals on the table involves nothing more than expanding the uses of an existing pot of money at the Department of Education to include bullying prevention. That’s it. Document at the state and local agency level the use of research-based programs, and you get to use it to implement effective programs.

In addition, most of these programs masquerade as bullying prevention but, in effect, promote an improvement in school climate that fosters learning and physical and psychological health.

Just for your consideration.

V for Vendetta

July 1st, 2009
5:09 pm

Remember when kids weren’t pansies and actually stood up for themselves? Those were the good old days . . . .

you're kidding, right?

July 1st, 2009
10:17 pm

Erik – the event you speak of above, where Atlanta Falcons’ Defensive End Chauncey Davis, DeKalb Juvenile Court Judge Desiree Peagler, DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May and more spoke to nearly 100 youth at the Browns Mill Road Recreation Center — Was there a representative from DeKalb County Schools? Browns Mill Elementary? Any school in that area?!!


July 2nd, 2009
2:41 pm

DC progressive…spare us your double talking mumbo jumbo.

Whats Wrong With You?

July 9th, 2009
3:11 am

It is clear that some people could care less on this issue while others see it as true. I had to endure bullying, fighting, and a host of other hells that has yet to clear itself up. I work in Fulton County and it is clear to me for example if a group of students are allow to break school property, beat up students for years, and basically get away with what whatever they want how in the hell do you expect teaching to take place? Yes there should be laws for this and any other law that prevents students from bascially taking over the schools. This maybe funny to some but it does explain the high crime rate. The good old days please. Parental reponsibility is out the door and then put on the teachers plate while the administrators sit back and collect the awards for something they did not deserve. In todays state of education it is sicking in one place and a pleasure in others. Turnover is high in the sicking place do you know why? Its time to put education first and stop the so called feeling sorry for some of these rotten to the core kids whoes could care less about school and their parents.