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On September 22, 2010, eighteen-year-old Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a video of him in an intimate encounter circulated on the internet. Clementi’s roommate had secretly filmed Clementi with another man and posted these videos online. Earlier that year, fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince from South Hadley, Massachusetts, committed suicide on January 14 after months of torment and embarrassment by the “Mean Girls” of her school. Both stories hit national headlines and started long months of revisiting bullying.
On March 10, 2011, President Obama and the First Lady hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. The goal of this conference was to dispel the myth that bullying is a rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. Exactly five months earlier, Obama had produced a video, as part of the LGBT youth project: It Gets Better Project. The project’s message is simple: no matter how difficult or hopeless life may seem when you’re a young person who’s been tormented by your peers or feels like you don’t fit in: life will get better. President Obama is committed to ending bullying, harassment, and discrimination in schools and communities.
Excellent, a president so devoted to dismissing the myth of “rite of passage.” Now the question comes down to: If our own president is dedicated, then why is it so hard to get legislatives passed for anti-bullying, such as the Tyler Clementi’s bill? Why is it that the country’s current laws against bullying and cyber-bullying have loopholes that only protect children under specific conditions? For example, child abuse laws state that any act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in physical and/or emotional harm, sexual abuse, serious injury or death, as well as exploitation is considered child abuse. However, isn’t peer abuse amongst children still a form of child abuse? In both scenarios a CHILD is being harmed physically and/or emotionally. Yet, the child abuse laws apply ONLY to actions taken by a PARENT or CARETAKER. Loophole!
By now, most people are members of many different social networks, from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr. As a user of Twitter, I have been looking for a Twitter account whose sole purpose is bullying of any form. While there are hundreds account, many are government based while others are users who want to stop bullying. As I browsed through different accounts, each one discussed recent bullying stories and suicides, how to confront the issue (as a parent), and how to prevent yourself in becoming a victim. I came across one account, BullyingTruth, which did not talk about such things but talked about the real issue behind it: loopholes. This account discussed the shocking facts that no one else seems to talk about. Of course, I began following them, even though they didn’t have many followers. I figured the reason is because 1) they don’t know or 2) they are scared. But, someone needs to stand up and talk about the facts that no one is willing to. Bullying can be stopped if people take actions and be bold. Only then can we put a stop to the torture that many children go through every day, which by the way is not any rite of passage in life.