AAUW believes that maintaining a bully-free climate at schools is a critical component to ending school violence. The White House asked AAUW to provide our recommendations for comprehensive proposals on reducing gun violence, which President Obama included in his announcement today. We were pleased by the inclusion of a top AAUW priority — school climates that are free of harassment and bullying — as one of the White House’s policy recommendations. As the White House statement put it:
We need to enhance the physical security of our schools and our ability to respond to emergencies like mass shootings and also create safer and more nurturing school climates. … Making our schools safer is not just about cops and security cameras; we also need to improve the climate of our schools to reduce violence and bullying (which sometimes precedes a mass casualty event).
AAUW strongly believes that quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society. Our member-adopted Biennial Action Priorities support “freedom from violence and fear of violence in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.” AAUW members advocate for equitable school climates that are free of harassment, bullying, and discrimination. Every student deserves a safe place to learn.
Recent events, such as the school shootings in Connecticut and California, have demonstrated that schools face many challenges in preventing and effectively responding to instances of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, which can lead to student violence and safety problems. According to the 2004 Safe School Initiative report, almost three-quarters of those who committed school violence felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident. In some cases, the experience of being bullied appeared to have been a factor in the decision to mount an attack. These numbers highlight the need to create a safe and supportive school culture and climate — a critical component in addressing school safety. The president’s proposal would provide much-needed resources to schools so they are better equipped to prevent or stop more severe violence from occurring.
Congress needs to act on several of the president’s proposals to create safer school climates. These include a comprehensive school safety initiative to help local school districts hire up to 1,000 school resource officers and school-based mental health professionals, as well as other investments in school safety, such as providing resources for schools to implement emergency preparedness plans; helping schools adopt proven strategies to reduce bullying, drug abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors; and assisting schools in gathering and sharing best practices on school discipline.
AAUW also supports the reintroduction and passage of the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Act, which aims to improve student achievement by promoting student health and wellness; preventing bullying, violence, and drug use; and fostering a positive school climate.
Our nation’s schools should be the safest places possible for children. We’re glad the White House is tackling the role that bullying and harassment play in school violence, and we look forward to supporting initiatives that protect all students.