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.
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.
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.
Resources from the UCC
- Bullying Is a Form of Abuse: Help Stop Bullying! by Jan Resseger, UCC JWM Minister for Public Education and Witness
- Short resource for use in workshops: What Is Bullying?
- Bullying: A Theological Reflection , by Ann Hanson, UCC JWM Minister for Sexuality Education and Justice
- Using Language to Abuse, by Rev. Loey Powell, Minister and Co-Team Leader, Justice and Witness Ministries
Information from other Organizations
- May 2013: From the National Education Policy Center, here is a short research-based brief, Addressing School Environment and Safety for LGBT Students, on steps schools can take and should be encouraged to take by churches and other community groups to make school a more welcoming place for all students. The recommendations are clear and very practical.
- April 2013: At its annual meeting the American Educational Research Association released Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges, and Universities: Research Report and Recommendations. This document is far more readable than it sounds. It includes eleven pithy information briefs on different issues around bullying and harassment, each brief well documented and each providing information followed by recommendations. Good table of contents makes this more accessible.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opened a new website in the spring of 2012: StopBullying.gov. In 2011 The U.S. Department of Education also 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."
- 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; Educators... Materials and Curricula for Educators; Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel; The Principal’s Perspective: School Safety, Bullying and Harassment; GLSEN's 2005 National School Climate Survey; From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America.
- PFLG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, has published Bringing the Message Home 2010, an excellent guide for legislative advocacy.
- Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, SIECUS: 2009 National School Climate Survey Reveals LGBY Youth Still Face Significant Harassment.
- National Education Association provides excellent resources for schools including a School Crisis Guide; NEA's Bully Free: It Starts With Me Campaign; and 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.
- The Learning First Alliance, an alliance of the large, national educational organizations has posted this guide to the resources on Bullying of all its the member organizations.
- 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.
- From Education.com: Bullying at School and Online: Quick Facts for Parents.
- 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 Southern Poverty Law Center, has made reduction of bullying a regular feature of coverage to support non-violent conflict resolution. An important resource here is, 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.
Books of Interest
- Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies by Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman.
- Coming Out Young and Faithful, from UCC LGBTQ advocates Leanne McCall Tigert and Timothy Brown, and published by the Pilgrim Press, is filled with stories and information, including ministry and advocacy resources. It will help individuals and faithful communities open doors of affirmation, love, and commitment to the needs of LGBT youths and young adults.
- After 25 years living in Los Angeles, J. Kelly Poorman returned to the small Pennsylvania town where he grew up. He helped his UCC congregation to become Open and Affirming and he has written a book and a play for adolescents. Check out his J. Kelly Poorman's website for more information about his books.
- Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History from Teaching Tolerance of the Southern Poverty Law Center. This film is the true story of a student bullied through middle and high school in Ashland, Wisconsin, a student who later sued successfully for federal protection of his right to be protected at school. The film's portrayal of bullying demonstrates what bullying is and what can be done about it. It is disturbing without being sensationalized. Very accurate portrayal of the target's suffering and the anguish of his family. The case is successful: a hopeful story of empowerment. Highly recommended for middle and high school use.
- It's Elementary 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! 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 (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