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LGBT Youth Need Hillary's Antibullying Plan More Than Ever

LGBT Youth Need Hillary's Bulling Plan More Than Ever

"The Trump effect" is taking a toll on this nation's students, but Hillary Clinton's plan to combat schoolyard cruelty could heal wounds.

As president of the American Federation of Teachers, I hear from teachers and school staff every day about the real, severe toll bullying takes on students, especially students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, students of color, and others who are vulnerable or historically marginalized. We still have so much work to do to make all schools safe and welcoming places for the students who come there to learn and for the educators and other adults who work to make a difference in students' lives.

One of the reasons the AFT endorsed Hillary Clinton for president is that she listens to our families and our communities. Clinton's "Better than Bullying" plan is a clear example of how she listens to educators and uses their input to inform her policy proposals. She has heard us on this issue and has taken the time to develop a plan that can really combat bullying and hate. Her plan will give states the incentive to develop comprehensive antibullying plans, and provide parents, educators, school staff, and communities with the resources and skills they need to prevent bullying and support those who experience it.

I love that Hillary's comprehensive plan includes support for professional development for educators and other school employees, and that it recognizes the important role of school counselors and wraparound services. It also rightly acknowledges both the need to prioritize school climate as part of implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act and the importance of bullying prevention in creating and maintaining positive and constructive school climates.

This election cycle, with candidates like Donald Trump using the currency of hate, fear, and marginalization, has made combating bullying a more urgent issue. AFT members are reporting a troubling increase in bullying behavior in schools nationwide thanks to the toxic rhetoric of the Trump campaign. One teacher in Miami told me that her 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old students are afraid they and/or their parents will be rounded up and deported. And I heard from a middle school teacher in Dearborn, Mich., whose Muslim students have stopped wearing anything that could identify them as Muslim and come to class in tears after white classmates taunt them. Educators are actually calling this the Trump effect,--and it's going to take time and hard work to heal the wounds it has inflicted.

If you couldn't tell, this issue is personal for me, and I've been proud to lead the AFT as we've tackled bullying prevention over the last eight years. From our "See Bullying, Stop Bullying" campaign to our ever-expanding bullying prevention resource hub on our Share My Lesson website to our time-tested professional development programs to working with groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and Not in Our School, the AFT is committed to combating bullying in schools.

AFT members are thrilled that Hillary Clinton understands the importance of tackling bullying, and we look forward to partnering with the next president of the United States on an even more comprehensive approach to addressing bullying and other school climate issues.

RANDI WEINGARTEN is president of the American Federation of Teachers. Follow her on Twitter @rweingarten.

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