WASHINGTON (WJZ)—Bullying should not be accepted. That’s the message at the center of a special White House conference aimed at preventing bullying. It’s a problem that affects millions of young people every year.
WJZ was at the White House, where Derek Valcourt explains so was Maryland’s first lady.
Maryland’s first lady Katie O’Malley was among dozens called to the White House to help raise awareness of bullying problems in schools across the country.
Rutgers student Tyler Clementi jumped off a bridge after his roommate secretly videotaped Clementi in a sexual encounter and broadcasted it on the Internet for the world to see. His story and other recent high-profile youth suicides have highlighted bullying problems and caught the attention of both Obamas.
“Not just as president and first lady, but as a mom and a dad,” said Michelle Obama.
“As adults we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard, and I have to say with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. I didn’t emerge unscathed,” said President Obama.
They called more than 150 students, parents and educators to the White House Thursday to help come up with ways to make schools and communities safer.
“If there’s one goal of this conference it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a rite of passage or some inevitable part of growing up,” said President Obama.
Among those at the table: Maryland’s first lady.
“The kids who are being victimized, they just want it to stop,” said Judge Katie O’Malley.
O’Malley has helped draw attention to bullying in Maryland, where in the 2008-2009 school year educators reported nearly 1,700 Maryland students were victims of bullying.
She says parents need to talk to their kids about bullying.
“If you can help them come up with constructive ways of dealing with it instead of destructive. You don’t want to be the parent that tells them ‘just bully them back’ because that only escalates it. So I think as a parent talking to other parents I would say just keep talking to your kids. Keep that dialogue open,” O’Malley said.
Many of the lessons learned at the conference will be shared on this website to help raise awareness: stopbullying.gov.