iVillage Visits the White House to Discuss Bullying

We get exclusive access to the president and first lady's White House Conference on Bullying Prevention

Bullying affects every one of us. Every. One. We either know someone who was bullied or have been bullied ourselves and we are all too familiar with those stories of bullying taking a tragic turn as in the cases of Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi.

Hoping to put a national spotlight on bullying -- and what we all can do to protect our children and keep them safe, the White House convened a conference of parents, teachers and community leaders March 10 -- and iVillage was there.

We listened in to the president and first lady’s comments and then had an exclusive Q-and-A with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (pictured, above, with iVillage Chief Correspondent Kelly Wallace), posing your questions to one of the White House’s top leaders on this important issue.

During our live Q-and-A, seen here on iVillage.com, we covered everything from federal funding for anti-bullying programs to whether we should talk to children younger than six about bullying to whether there should be laws on the books for cases of extreme bullying.

Watch the video, or read some of the highlights below.

In these days of drastic budget cuts, what can be done to help schools afford to deal with this very real problem? 
-- Sara Au, mom of two, Orlando, FL
Part of it is parents voices need to be part of the decision on the local level. I’m a huge believer that we have to meet kids where their interest are and make them feel important. Parents' voices are great. A lot of the bullying issues have leadership issues. Parents must demand that they pay attention and reinforce safety. Help kids understand that this isnt okay or something that they just have to put up with.

Should we talk about school bullying with young children (under 6)? And if so, how? - Beth Engelman, iVoice on iVillage, Glenview, IL 
You start in pre-school. It can clearly start in the first social setting. The earlier the better. If you’re talking about sharing, talk about potentional harm and bad behavior. That will make them understand that it’s not okay from an early age. You need to behave differently and we're going to take steps to get your friend to behave differently.

We are working hard in our school to stop bullying, but would love to hear your ideas on how the government can help us. We know that New York State has passed a law to make sure schools take the problem seriously. What is the federal government planning to do to help us too? - 6th Graders, "Caring Majority Ambassadors," Walter S. Boardman Elementary School, Oceanside, NY
Forty five states have passed laws to help with bullying. StopBullying.gov is a government tool. People can stand by or they can become engaged and invoked. The earlier kids understand that watching and observering is participating. Report it. A child or a teenager may feel so victimized that they are paralyzed. Bystanders can be so helpful. If the victim can’t come forward, having someone speak for them is critical.

It’s tough for kids to speak out when they see someone being bullied. How do we give them the skills/strength to do so? - @kvarmawhite
A lot of kids are afraid that the pain they’re in can only get worse. Something I hear from other people is talking to a child about somebody else being bullied, so it doesn’t personalize it and allows them to be the defender. Children need to be and feel safe and we just need to somehow reinforce the msg that its not okay to be in a situation where you are made to feel afraid.

While there should be a large amount of care and concern for the children being bullied, I also think there needs to be a lot of care and concern for the children who are doing the bullying. edd0520, iVillage community member
StopBullying.gov does have some specific tools and tips. A lot of schools don’t have the counseling staff they may have had before, but having a school adult help is essential. Maybe the child has his or her own insecurities and takes it out on someone weaker. We have to get some counseling to those kids. It’s an unfortunate pattern.

Should the parents be held responsible if their child is a bully? - Ashley Kanoff, iVillage community member
It is a parent's role to be involved and to help a child learn from the outset and reinforce good behavior. I have difficulty micromanaging offsite cases, but clearly there have been criminal cases with a parent knowingly involved in their child’s bullying activities. Encouraging parental involvement is important. Making sure teachers are giving very accurate feedback to parents.

Should schools have zero-tolerance policy towards bullies or is there a better way? - via Twitter
Absolutely appropriate. How much bullying is okay? Say it from the outset: we don’t accept any bullying. It’s every adult’s job in that school. The custodian is just as likely to see something as a teacher.

Learn more about bullying prevention at StopBullying.gov

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