Recent stories in the news have highlighted the tragic consequences bullying has on so many children in our schools. By all accounts, bullying is pervasive from kindergarten through college, taking many different forms.
Whether it be verbal taunting, name-calling or physical abuse, bullying has what are often lifelong devastating effects on many of our children.
In some situations, the tormenting is so relentless and cruel, children choose to end their very young lives.
NYSUT-backed statewide initiatives against bullying include the Dignity for All Students Act, signed into law in September, and 2000's Project SAVE — the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act.
Coinciding with National Anti-Bullying Month in October, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a new documentary film and educational kit.
The film shows educators and students that bullying is morally and legally wrong, and that addressing this problem will create a safer environment for all students. The film is being distributed free of charge to any educator who requests it.
Bullied: A student, a school and a case that made history tells the true story of Jamie Nabozny who, from his early days in middle school through high school, was the victim of horrendous anti-gay bullying. What started with name-calling gradually turned into physical attacks so brutal he required surgery after one of the incidents.
Jamie and his parents complained to school administrators, but nothing was ever done to address their concerns.
School became for Jamie a daily battle for survival. After multiple suicide attempts, he dropped out of high school and moved away from home.
After years of torment, Jamie and his parents fought back by filing a federal lawsuit against the school district and several administrators, charging they failed to protect him from years of anti-gay abuse and harassment.
Bullied is an extremely well-produced and powerful resource that should be used as an important part of any school diversity, tolerance or anti-bullying program.
Because of the documentary's powerful message and the sensitivity of the topic, the Southern Poverty Law Center has created an essential teaching guide, with pre- and post-viewing activities and discussions.
For teachers who would like additional information about a series of free anti-bullying workshops you can have in your school, contact the National Education Association.
Find a form request at www.nea.org/assets/docs/Bullyingtrainingflyer.pdf.
Ken Kurzweil, a former president of the Bedford Teachers Association, chairs NYSUT's Civil & Human Rights Committee.