AFSA Signs On To Letter Calling for Anti-Bullying Measures In New Gun Control Legislation

Gun ControlOn January 11 AFSA joined with over 40 organizations in signing and submitting a letter to the Vice President’s Commission on Gun Control, calling for a well-rounded discussion that includes bullying and harassment.

In a statement today announcing “common sense measures to reduce gun violence,” President Obama specified that “Other executive orders will include planks on education and mental health, providing federal resources for anti-bullying efforts and training for school counselors and first responders.”

From the president’s response, it is clear that our voices were heard. While this is a step forward, we must stay active and informed to ensure anti-bully and harassment measures are taken  throughout the future of school safety and gun control legislation.

Below is the full letter:

January 11, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, and the diverse coalition of advocacy organizations below applaud Vice President Joe Biden’s Task Force on Gun Violence for considering school climate measures in its discussion around curbing gun violence. However, in light of recent proposals that focus on policing and surveillance in schools, we are deeply concerned that the taskforce is considering approaches that will be detrimental to a healthy learning environment. We are also concerned that focus is shifting away from proven prevention methods like mental health support and anti-bullying initiatives and policies. Preventing bullying is proven to play a critical role in improving school climate and must be a part of any discussion about school safety.

A report released by the Safe Schools Initiative further illustrates that bullying in schools can have negative consequences for the general school climate and for the right of students to learn in a safe environment. Similarly, a negative and unsupportive school climate can lead to increased levels of bullying and harassment in schools.

According to the 2004 findings of the Safe Schools Initiative report released by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education, almost three-quarters of  those engaged in targeted school violence felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident. In several cases, individual attackers had experienced bullying and harassment that was long-standing and severe. In some of these cases, the experience of being bullied seemed to have a significant impact on the attacker and appeared to have been a factor in his decision to mount an attack at the school. These numbers highlight the need to create a safe and supportive school culture and climate; a critical component in addressing school safety.

It is clear that there is an urgent need for action to create safe and affirming schools for all students. The prevalence of bullying found in this and other studies should strongly support ongoing efforts to reduce and prevent bullying in schools. Establishing such an environment cannot be done simply by installing metal detectors and increasing security measures or setting up a police force at schools. There are productive actions that educators and others can pursue in response to the problem of targeted school violence and in preventing future attacks. School-based support such as professional development training for school staff to improve rates of intervention and prevention, along with an inclusion of comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment policies can positively affect school climate for these students. Only through comprehensive measures can we move toward a future in which all students have a safe and supportive learning environment free from harm.

Please feel free to contact any of the organizations listed here with questions and we look forward to continuing to work with your team on this important initiative.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Advocates for Youth
America Federation of School Administrators
American Association University Women (AAUW)
American Counseling Association
American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee
American School Counselor Association
Anti-Defamation League
APALA Education Fund
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Committee for Children
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Gay-Straight Alliance Network
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
The Interfaith Alliance
Log Cabin Republicans
PFLAG National
National Alliance of Black School Educators
National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME)
National Association of School Psychologists
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
National Council of Jewish Women
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
National Women’s Law Center
Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA National)
Rural School and Community Trust
School Social Work Association of America
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SEICUS)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Sikh Coalition
Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
The Learning Disabilities Association of America
The Trevor Project
Unitarian Universalist Association