Congressional leaders launched the historic Anti-Bullying Caucus Thursday afternoon, a landmark achievement as efforts heat up to pass national anti-bullying legislation.
The caucus, led by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), hosts a largely bi-partisan membership of 41 congressional representatives, some of whom spoke at a press conference Thursday.
“We need to let [bullies] know that bullying – in any way, shape, or form, is wrong,” Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) said. “Let’s reverse this disturbing trend in our schools.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) recalled a personal story of a 21-year-old military family member who suffered from hazing, committing suicide shortly after being subjected to three hours of being taunted to do push-ups while wearing body armor.
“To stop military hazing we must first stop bullying itself – what happens on the battleground often begins on the playground,” she said. “Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage for kids; this is a problem we can actually fix.”
Entering the room late in flip-flops, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) remarked on the profound affect the personal stories of many have had on her as a parent and legislator.
“As a mom, it just tears at your soul…” Sanchez said, teary-eyed. “These aren’t just statistics; they’re children.”
The caucus members were joined by activist organizations from across the country Thursday, with strong presences from the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), The Trevor Project, the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition and even ever-crucial third parties like Facebook. The caucus’ press conference and panel discussions were followed by a screening of Lee Hirsch’s “Bully,” a striking documentary on the realities of bullying in the United States’ school system. The parents of one of the film’s documented suicide victims spoke briefly but with notable conviction at the conference.
“Now is the time; we have this opportunity, and if we don’t take it, how many more parents are going to lose their children?” Tina Long said. “We’re tired of excuses.”