Historically, the bullying of pupils while in school has not been viewed as a major public policy concern. Many school personnel and even some parents characterize it as: “kids being kids;” “part of growing up;” or “ways to toughen children for adulthood.” It's simply untrue.
All of us have witnessed our classmates with perceived differences or physical characteristics being teased, laughed at, or even beaten. We’ve seen the tears, their fear, and their rejection. Once a pupil is labeled as being "deserving" of abuse, few ever escape that stigma. The cuts and bruises may heal, but the emotional and psychological scars last a lifetime.
Many of our community members with both visible and invisible disabilities have experienced bullying. It is a serious problem for our children because one out of every three pupils with a disability is bullied while in school.
Children with visible disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy and wheelchair users are often called ugly names or are aggressively excluded from interaction with their peers. Pupils with invisible learning disabilities report high rates of teasing and physical abuse. Others with ADHD are taunted because they have higher impulsivity and lower frustration tolerance.
Today, many participants in the California Youth Leadership Forum reveal they cannot interact with the main student body. Even in the post-civil rights era, many school campuses are physically segregated and pupils with disabilities can only befriend other pupils with a disability.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community members are also disproportionately bullied in school. There are thousands of stories from throughout the nation about victims being subjected to extreme, long-lasting abuse and violence. Tragically, LGBT victims often face severe abuse that can result in serious injuries, deaths, and suicides.
Increased awareness about the pervasiveness of bullying and its tragic consequences is mobilizing anti-bullying campaigns to end this abuse and violence. Parents, educators, and lawmakers have classified bullying as a major public health and school violence problem.
Bullying inflicts physical, psychological, and emotional harm and interferes with a victim's ability to learn and participate in school activities. It’s been linked to anti-social behaviors like vandalism, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual harassment and violence.
Since 1999, state legislatures have enacted anti-bullying laws. Today, 47 states have anti-bullying laws of various types. They universally acknowledge that pupils have a right to attend schools that are safe, secure, and peaceful.
The California Legislature enacted its first anti-bullying laws in 2003, but more progress is needed. “Bully Police U.S.A.,” that monitors state anti-bullying laws only awarded California’s statutes a "B" grade.
In 2011, CFILC supported a bill that may raise our GPA. AB 9 expands California law to protect pupils bullied because they are, or perceived to be, part of the LGBT community and pupils with a disability.
Other new laws include: AB 746 that strengthens prohibitions against using social networks for “cyber-bullying,” and AB 1156 that requires more school personnel anti-bullying training and prioritizes school transfers requested by bullying victims.
The disability community and the families of pupils with disabilities must push for stronger anti-bullying laws to protect our children. We must also ensure they are enforced to combat the debilitating effects of bullying.
The abuse and violence against pupils with disabilities must STOP!