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We Don't Have to Just Accept Anti-LGBTQ Bullying


Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi tells us why he thinks government has a responsibility to reduce harassment in our schools.

The surge of humiliation. The heat of shame. The sting of tears. Feelings so familiar to the victims of bullying.

Many of us have experienced bullying. Though most of us felt we were bullied alone, the irony of bullying is that it is as ubiquitous as it is isolating.

Due, in part, to the influence of social media, bullying is spreading at an ever-alarming rate. According to a report by the Cyberbullying Research Center, the percentage of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying has more than doubled in the past 12 years. And yet the more bullying permeates our daily lives the more inclined we are to overlook it, even when it manifests at the highest levels of our government.

Some might say this is simply the way of the world. That bullying is a childhood rite-of-passage. A test of character. But while there is certainly something to be said for the trials and tribulations of childhood, bullying should not be one of them, especially for our nation's most vulnerable.

Bullying is not just an obstacle on the path to maturity. Its effects can be destructive not just to the individuals it hurts, but to the communities it degrades. And as issues of suicide and gun violence in our schools compound, we are beginning to see how bullying can at times be deadly.

One in three children in the United States have been victims of bullying. But it is an issue that disproportionately affects members of the LGBTQ+ community as 90 percent of LGBTQ+ students report being bullied and almost 90 percent of transgender students say they feel unsafe in their own communities.

Hostile school environments have deeply detrimental effects not just on the health and wellbeing of our students, but also on their academic, social, and economic success. In fact, a study was published last year on the longterm impacts associated with childhood bullying victimization. This study found that adults who were frequently bullied as children have lower earnings, accumulate less wealth, are at increased risk of unemployment, and are less likely to own property. Of course, they are also more likely to suffer from mental health issues like anxiety and depression as well.

These findings contradict the conventional view that bullying somehow builds character. It illustrates that the effects of bullying can be detrimental not only to victims, but to everyone around them.

My home state of Illinois is one of 13 states across the country that is leading the way in the fight against bullying. Governor J.B. Pritzker and legislators like Representative Mark Walker have recently taken steps to address the rise in bullying. For example, Governor Pritzker signed a bill into law in August 2019 that will ensure LGBTQ+ history curriculum will be taught in Illinois schools. Through collaboration with anti-bullying nonprofits and advocacy groups like GLSEN, Illinois has become a leader in the fight against bullying and is paving the way for other states and communities to follow suit.

But there's also a clear need for more federal support. That's why, after working closely with GLSEN, I recently introduced a bill in Congress, the State Taskforce Opportunity Program, or STOP Bullying Act. My bill builds on the "Illinois School Bullying Prevention Task Force," established by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in 2011, as well as several other anti-bullying task forces that have shown success across the country. My bill encourages states to create their own anti-bullying taskforces and to study, address, and reduce bullying in primary and secondary schools.

School-based support systems like these can positively affect school climate, especially for LGBTQ+ students. For example, the National School Climate Survey of 2017 showed that LGBTQ+ students in schools with an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum report more positive school experiences, including lower victimization and absenteeism and higher academic achievement.

This is borne out by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology, which found that school-based anti-bullying programs decreased bullying by 20-23 percent and victimization by 17-20 percent.

Bullying is an issue that affects us all. But by working together as policymakers, administrators, educators, and students, together we can provide safe learning environments for all our nation's children.

Raja Krishnammorthi is the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 8th congressional district. Follow him on Twitter @CongressmanRaja.

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Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi