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White House to address bullying in America

The White House has announced that President Barack Obama and representatives from the departments of Health and Human Services and Education will participate in a conference to address bullying in the U.S.

Chris Geidner of the Washington D.C. based Metro Weekly reports on the planned conference and the president’s participation:

Calling it an issue “very near and dear to the president and first lady’s heart,” [White House Domestic Policy Advisor Melody] Barnes noted that the president had recorded an “It Gets Better” video and said that the conference would include “students and parents and teachers and others impacted by bullying” and address, among other topics, “ways to take action to address [bullying] in their communities.”

The announcement was good news to Kevin Epling, co-chair of Bully Police U.S.A. The East Lansing resident lost his teenage son, Matt, in a bullying related suicide in 2002. Since then, Epling and his wife Tammy have been actively engaged in pushing the state legislature to pass a comprehensive anti-bullying bill.

Michigan is one of only five states that does not have an anti-bullying law. Legislation has been stonewalled by Republican leadership for years.

“I am very happy that President Obama has called this conference so this invisible epidemic will get the attention it deserves. We have lost far too many children to one of the most preventable things in our schools: peer to peer abuse,” Epling tells Michigan Messenger. “My hope is that an important voice will be there at the table along with educators; Parents who have lost children to bullycide who can help guide the change by actually exploring past problems and not just ‘theorizing’ what could happen. Ask those who have lived and have already been working with schools. .

“Honestly it should have never taken so long for this to happen, but it has because adults are the ones who don’t want to change. If you ask the students they are tired of the bullying they want things to change but the biggest problem with anti-bullying is the adults,” he continued. “Adults who are afraid of change even when the prognosis is very good.”

The White House is responding to a string of highly publicized bullying related suicides across the country. Those suicides gave birth to the “It Gets Better” campaign — an internet driven program wherein adults video words of support for teenagers who are being targeted with bullying.

President Barack Obama is one of many politicians who released a video for the program. Vice President Joe Biden also released a video.

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