Jefferson City, MO – The statistics are startling. One in three American schoolchildren in grades six through 10 are affected by bullying. Eighty-three percent of girls and 79 percent of boys report experiencing either bullying or sexual harassment. Many students are bullied because sexual-orientation legislation like the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, proposed by Rep. Steve Cookson, shackles educators' efforts to prevent bullying in public schools.
Students who are targets of repeated bullying behavior experience extreme fear and stress, which can be expressed as fear of going to school, fear of using a public bathroom, fear of the bus ride to and from school, physical symptoms of illness and diminished ability to learn.
"Schools, above all, need to be safe havens for students – places where students can learn and realize their full potential," says Missouri NEA President Chris Guinther, a teacher on leave from the Francis Howell School District. "MNEA members realized a decade ago the need for a comprehensive program to counter the bullying culture in public schools in Missouri. That’s when we invested in developing the No MOre Bullying program."
MNEA created No MOre Bullying because NEA members want to dramatically reduce bullying in Missouri's schools. Convincing research indicates school communities can achieve this goal by fostering the active involvement of teachers, administrators, school support personnel, parents and the community.
"Educators want to help students, but this bill would make them afraid for their jobs," Guinther continues. "We have to untie their hands when they feel they should act or intervene in a situation that arises. Educators shouldn’t have to fear for their jobs when they want to act to help students."
MNEA has trained thousands of educators in the No MOre Bullying program, which it offers at a low cost to Missouri school districts. No MOre Bullying covers the essential elements of a whole-school campaign, tools to train school staff and students, and guidance to implement a campaign to reduce bullying and sexual harassment.
The NEA is providing guidance to caring adults in schools and communities nationwide who are willing to stand up and pledge to help bullied students. To help these concerned adults, the NEA launched the "NEA's Bully Free: It Starts With Me" campaign, which connects bullied students with a caring adult—one on one. These caring adults agree to listen carefully to the bullied student who comes to them and take action to stop the bullying. NEA also provides the adults bullying prevention resources through www.nea.org/bullyfree.
For information on MNEA’s No MOre Bullying training, visit www.mnea.org/Missouri/NoMoreBullying.aspx or call MNEA Teaching and Learning Director Ann Jarrett.
Find information on the "Bully Free: It Starts With Me" campaign and additional resources on how to combat bullying, including supplemental materials to accompany the film, at www.nea.org/home/NEABullyFreeSchools.html.
NEA has also launched a nationwide PSA campaign to raise awareness of bullying in communities across the country. Find the audio announcements at the site noted above.
The text of House Bill 2051, the "Don't Say Gay Bill," reads as follows: "H.B. 2051 Public School Curriculum -- This bill prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation in public school instruction, material, or extracurricular activity except in scientific instruction on human reproduction."