Bullying happens at school. It happens at church. It happens in all kinds of communities, in fact in every community.
Bullying is a form of abuse of power, when one young person or a peer group abuses a vulnerable young person over a period of time. Bullying happens among young women and young men, among boys and girls. It can be physical or emotional.
There is evidence that a community or a school or a church can take steps to create a culture of respect that reduces bullying significantly. As people of faith we are called to help our communities reduce bullying.
Staff across several ministries of the United Church of Christ have gathered together resources on this page from a number of points of view. Just as the reduction of bullying must be a collaborative endeavor, this page is our effort to bring the perspectives of several portfolios on the UCC national staff.
June 14, 2011: The U.S. Department of Education released guidelines "affirming the principles that prevent unlawful discrimination against any student-initiated groups" at school. The Department issued this guidance specifically to support the right of students to form gay-straight alliances at their high schools. "Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and similar student-initiated groups addressing LGBT issues can play an important role in promoting safer schools and creating more welcoming learning environments."
February 2011... New from the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: a page devoted to the damage that can be caused by bullying particularly for lesbian, gay, bisexual andtransgender youths. "Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and those who are questioning their sexual orientation are happy and thrive during their adolescent years. Going to a school that has created a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and having caring and accepting parents are especially important. This helps all youth achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health. However, some LGBT youth face greater difficulties in their lives and school environments compared to their heterosexual peers, such as bullying."
October 26, 2010: The U.S. Department of Education has released guidance for school districts and colleges and universities to clarify how student misconduct constituting bullying or harassment may fall under the civil rights laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Federal statutes ban bullying and harassment by race and national origin, sex and gender, and disability. Once cases of bullying and harassment are known, schools are expected to take prompt and effective steps to end the situation.
UCC Leaders Say Urgency Is Needed in Addressing Anti-Gay Bullying is the October 5, 2010, statement from the UCC's Collegium of Officers.
Spring 2011: Cindy Crane, a Lutheran pastor from Madison, Wisconsin has created an anti-bullying curriculum for use with church youth groups, "Talking to Teens and Adults about Bullying: What Do Religious Leaders Have to Say?" You may order the resource (cost is $12) through Cindy's website.
General Synod 27, July 2009, passes resolution to support LGBT students in public schools and their advocates. "Affirming Diversity/Multicultural Education in the Public Schools" seeks to create a progressive Christian witness in support of organizations that provide diversity education at school to build tolerance for all people, particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families, along with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, abilities, social classes and faiths. The resolution was sponsored by the Northern California, Nevada Conference, where UCC pastors who provide diversity education and public school districts that include information around gender identity and sexual orientation in their curricula have been harassed by organized protests and lawsuits.
Background and Definitions
- Bullying Is a Form of Abuse: Help Stop Bullying! by Jan Resseger, UCC JWM Minister for Public Education and Witness
October, 2010: Here is new guidance for schools and legislatures to develop laws and policies that protect the rights of LGBT students: Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation. This resource, from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, the National Education Policy Center, and the Williams Institute of the University of California School of Law, makes recommendations about improving school climate, reforming curriculum and teaching practices; recommends policies regarding iimproved climate in school sports; and even presents a sample draft bill that can be adopted by any state legislature.
National School Boards Association “Dealing with Legal Matters Surrounding Students’ Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” helps with issues like formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance, student rights around dress, curriculum and LGBT issues, issues around events like “Day of Silence,” rights around same-sex couples attending student events, and harassment of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The UCC Justice & Witness Ministries and 12 other organizations endorsed tihis resource.
From the Safe Schools Coalition, guidance for schools and issues relating to LGBT Concerns.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network GLSEN's website contains regularly updated materials on ways to stop bullying and harassment. Here are samples:
- Anti-Bullying Resources, 2010
- Educators... Materials and Curricula for Educators, 2010
- Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel, 2010
PFLG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, has published Bringing the Message Home 2010, an excellent guide for legislative advocacy.
National Education Association
July 2009: NEA has released a comprehensive and important resource, A Report on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People in Education: Stepping Out of the Closet, Into the Light. This in-depth report grew from NEA's National July 2008 Summit on GLBT Issues. Here is a taste: "This report is about young people.... about our students—gay, straight, male, female, queer, transgender—missing school, underachieving, or dropping out. It's about student-on-student cruelty, which in our schools we refer to as harassment and bullying. It's about their parents and guardians and the communities in which they live. It's also about educators reaching out to students who are in emotional and psychological distress. And it's about all of our colleagues, gay or straight, being able to do the best job they can do... We are acutely aware that the conflicts over issues involving sexual orientation and gender identity divide American society—as well as American schools, which are a microcosm of our society." (p. v) This guide includes tips for educators, links to additional resources, and an extensive bibliography.
"The ABC's of School Bullying: Tips for Parents and Teachers" is an excellent short practical resource from NEA to help adults intervene to stop bullying. Search the NEA's site for additional excellent resources.
United Methodist Board for Church and Society has posted an excellent resource guide for a discussion on abuse and bullying. Appropriate for use with adults and adolescents.
Here is information from the Seattle Based Safe Schools Coalition.
National Association of State Boards of Education
What Works—and Doesn't Work—in Bullying Prevention and Intervention is a short, practical guide describing effective and ineffective strategies for reducing bullying at school.
Cyberbullying defines this web-based behavior and evaluates strategies schools and families can employ to eradicate it.
Southern Poverty Law Center Teaching Tolerance, the journal published by the , has made reduction of bullying a regular feature of coverage to support non-violent conflict resolution. Search this site.
- Cyberbullying: The Stakes Have Never Been Higher for Students—or Schools, Fall 2010 issue, explores syberbullying, defined as "the repreated use of technology to harass, humiliate or threaten." The article describes strategies that can be taught at school and practiced by adolescent including on-line safety skills and strategies for students to use to reject digital abuse in their own lives.
It's Elementary (1999) is a wonderful film from Groundspark, formerly Women's Educational Media, that shows what happens when schools and teachers introduce the subject of homophobia in an age-appropriate way into elementary and middle schools. In every location and for every child from first through eighth grade, students know about this subject and have misinformation they have gleaned from peers and the media. The children experience a sense of relief to be allowed to discuss the fearful messages they have absorbed and to give up their fear as they separate myths and stereotypes from facts.
That's A Family! (2000), also from Groundspark, lets children take viewers on a tour through their lives as they speak candidly about what it's like to grow up in a family with parents of different races or religions, divorced parents, a single parent, gay or lesbian parents, adoptive parents or grandparents as guardians.
Oliver Button is a Star (2001) (now available for $5.00 from the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus) is the artistically stunning 56 minute video based on children's author-illustrator, Tomie dePaola's book, Oliver Button Is a Sissy. As dePaola himself reads the story to a group of children, it is musically dramatized by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus—spliced with childhood home-movie footage and current interviews with dePaola himself, arctic explorer Ann Bancroft, dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones, and make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin. dePaola's own illustrations are animated and spliced into the film as well. This video celebrates the extraordinary gifts of four children who were teased, bullied, and harassed because their interests and behavior didn't conform to gender-defined expectations. We also learn about their parents and other adults who were their allies.
Prayer from the Hibbert Trust, in the UK, including the following words: "Bullies' words sting and slice through me. Bulllies' words twist into shapes that beat me and leave me like a trampled leaf... Help us to disentangle the knots of confusion and misunderstanding. To understand the hurts that others feel - that we have ignored. Help us to speak of what we feel. Help us to know when others need to speak so that then we can l listen."
A Litany for Safety in Our Schools, by Rev. Bill Johnson