The Anti-Bullying Movement
On September 10, 2013, Rebecca Sedwick jumped from a concrete tower. She died as a result. She was a victim of bullying and had been for months. She had been threatened, intimidated, and even beaten up. Anyone who made the mistake of befriending her was also bullied.
Her last months were miserable and not just at the hands of one aggressor. Sedwick was bullied by at least 15 girls. The bullying happened in person and online, with her receiving messages that she should kill herself. Before she died, she had spent time in the hospital due to slitting her own wrists. She had even moved to a different school, but that didn't stop the cyber-bullying, or the act of persistent psychological abuse by one's peers over the internet.
Two girls were eventually arrested for bullying Sedwick. They were ages 14 and 12. One of them had posted a comment on social media after Sedwick's funeral, stating that she knew she bullied Sedwick into killing herself. This girl's comment also indicated that she didn't care. This was a horrid case of bullying that led to the death of an innocent victim.
On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris retaliated for bullying they allegedly endured at their high school in Colorado. They had planned an attack for months and walked into Columbine School that day intending to kill. After taking the lives of 13 and wounding more than 20 others, they took their own lives. This quickly became known as the worst school shooting in U.S. history; it shocked the nation.
However, as investigation into the crime continued as the years went by, evidence was gathered, which revealed that neither Harris or Klebold had been bullied at all. In fact, it became much clearer that while they weren't the most popular kids in school, they had the makings of bullies themselves, with particular attention given to the destructive and violent fantasies expressed by Harris, whom many professionals have come to describe as a budding psychopath. However, this wasn't known at the time, and the bullying narrative had taken hold.
Within a month, one state passed anti-bullying legislation; eventually, every other state in the nation followed. Let's look at some of these changes.
The first state to enact anti-bullying legislation was the state of Georgia. The law went into effect just a month after the Columbine Massacre. While Georgia laws don't name specific groups protected under the law, it does address cyber-bullying. It also addresses hazing, character education, policies that prohibit bullying, expected codes of conduct for students, and a disciplinary policy.
In 2008, the state of California enacted the nation's first law against cyber-bullying. Technological advances had made cyber-bullying a harsh reality. Bullies are now able to reach their victims anywhere and at any time. They may hide behind their computers and smart phones, sending messages to victims directly and posting about them on social media. California paved the way for other states to follow.
In September of 2011, New Jersey took a harsh stance against bullying, threatening legal action against witnesses of bullying who don't report the bullying. New Jersey's legislation also required that all bullying cases be reported to the state and that schools implement policies to address bullying.
Today, all states have laws against bullying. Some of these states also have policies that address how the states will handle bullying cases. While this has not stopped the problem of bullying, it has made some progress. As of now, there are no federal laws against bullying.
In 2005, the STOMP program was created. This program sought to reduce bullying and addressed both cyber-bullying and sexting. Sexting occurs when sexual material is communicated, such as by email or text message. It can include photographs, videos, and even text conversations. Additionally, the STOMP program raises awareness about the following issues in schools: homophobia, racism, and violence.
Born This Way Foundation
In January 2011, pop star Lady Gaga and her mother created an organization called the Born This Way Foundation. The goal of this organization was to help people present themselves as they actually are, not how everyone expects them to be. This program puts a strong focus on accepting people the way that they are and embracing their differences.
Many schools have implemented their own anti-bullying programs. They provide resources to students to report bullying anonymously and ways for victims to reach out for help. For example, one school (Highland Park ISD) in Amarillo, Texas, has placed an anonymous bully report on their website. Anyone can file a report on the website, including victims and witnesses.
As technology advances, there will likely be new methods of bullying in the future. The nation has adjusted to recent technological changes and responded appropriately. It's reasonable to conclude that this will continue to occur in the future as well.
All right, let's take a moment or two to review what we've learned. As we saw in this lesson, the history of the anti-bullying movement is surprisingly short in the U.S. Until the tragedies of the Columbine Massacre in April of 1999, there were no state laws in place against bullying. While the massacre was ultimately revealed to have had nothing to do with bullying, the belief that it was at the time caused many states to act. In May of 1999, the state of Georgia enacted the first anti-bullying legislation. Eventually, all states followed suit.
The state of California was the first state to enact legislation against cyber-bullying, which is the act of persistent psychological abuse by one's peers over the internet. The state of New Jersey took an especially hard stance on bullying, holding witnesses who don't report bullying legally responsible. As technology has advanced, so have the laws and programs, including Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation and the STOMP program, the latter of which sought to put an end to cyber-bullying with particular attention paid to bullying as a response to sexting, which occurs when sexual material is communicated, such as by email or text message. The current laws seek to protect victims from bullying and provide methods of reporting. There are still no federal laws against bullying.
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Prompts About the Anti-Bullying Movement:
Essay Prompt 1:
Write an essay of approximately one page that describes the history of the anti-bullying movement. Be sure to point out extreme instances of bullying that caused states to consider implementing anti-bullying laws.
Example: The Columbine school shooting in 1999 illustrated dramatic and deadly ways that students retaliated against bullying.
Essay Prompt 2:
In approximately three to four paragraphs, write an essay that explains what cyber bullying is and what constitutes sexting. Describe the STOMP program and how it has addressed bullying.
Example: The STOMP program has sought to reduce sexting as well as violence, racism, and homophobia in schools.
Graphic Organizer Prompt:
Create a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that summarizes the anti-bullying laws and their histories in Georgia, California, and New Jersey.
Example: You could draw the states of Georgia, California, and New Jersey on your graphic organizer and then list the parameters of their anti-bullying laws within them.
Make an informational poster or brochure that showcases the agenda of the Born This Way Foundation. Be sure to include a brief history of how this foundation was created.
Example: The Born This Way Foundation encourages acceptance of self and others.
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