By Rachel Barr, a Summer 2012 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
Over the last few years, bullying has become a hot-button issue in American life. Between the Rutgers student who committed suicide after being bullied for being gay, the bus monitor who gained national attention after being harshly bullied by young students, and discussions of bullying in the popular television show Glee, the issue has entered the mainstream and elected officials as well concerned citizens are now addressing the problem.
A newly founded Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus already has 41 members who, according to their Web site, are “committed to the belief that all communities deserve a safe environment to thrive, and that our nation is in urgent need of solutions that stop bullying – both offline and online – now and forever.”
For Representative Mike Honda, D. Calif., chair of the new caucus, the issue of bullying hits close to home. As a child during World War II, Honda, along with others of Japanese descent, was held in an internment camp. He recalls that many of the interred individuals were teased and harassed because of their ethnicity long after the war ended. Though the bullying of Japanese-Americans has subsided over the years, Honda notes that 13 million children a year are still bullied and harassed for reasons ranging from their sexual orientation to the color of their skin.
The caucus hopes to decrease this number, and is supported in its mission by 38 organizations including the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and PFLAG National (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), among others. These organizations are working to prevent bullying in schools and workplaces and striving to make communities safe for all children and adults.
“Every day, as children miss school due to fear of physical and psychological attacks on the basis of their skin color, ethnicity, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, and religion, is a call to action to put aside partisanship and join hands to combat the cultural phenomenon of bullying,” Honda said in a press release.
While a Congressional caucus cannot pass laws on its own, it does give representatives the chance to join together, unite their voices, and fight passionately for a cause that all members believe in. Both Democrats and Republicans have joined the caucus in hopes of ending bullying by not only addressing harassment, but also by looking at the larger issues that lead to bullying. In addition to supporting anti-bullying legislation, the caucus hopes to bring all anti-bullying advocates together to enact change.