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At Bullying Summit, Student Bystanders Encouraged to Act


As policymakers continue to wrestle with the issue of bullying, there's a new emphasis on getting kids who see bullying happen to speak up.

At the third Bullying Prevention Summit here, the nonprofit Ad Council today shared a new public service campaign encouraging parents of children who see their peers being bullied to report it.

"Teach your kids to stop being a bystander," one ad says. The spots then direct students to StopBullying.gov.

The message is that kids shouldn't give bullying an audience, said Peggy Conlon, the Ad Council's president and chief executive officer.

A series of ads that have appeared for several years on the Cartoon Network have a similar message. In one, students are encouraged to tell an adult what they saw or heard, and if nothing happens, to tell other adults.

Actress Marlo Thomas, whose Free to Be Foundation celebrates diversity, spoke about how important it is to get parents involved. She recounted an incident as a child when her father pulled over when he saw a group of kids fighting and took the victim home.

The message, she said, is "if you don't stand up for a child who's being bullied, who will be there for you?"

Thomas encouraged schools to remove students who are bullies from school. "You've got to pull those children out of those schools," she said. "You've got to start thinking about zero tolerance."

Later, Robert Kim of the U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights noted that there are many concerns about so-called exclusionary discipline practices, including suspension and expulsion, that remove students from school for violence, drugs, or other rule breaking.

He said teachers shouldn't fear reporting bullying because it could lead to a student's ejection from school.

"We should have zero tolerance as a philosophical approach to bullying," Kim said, but there's no guarantee that students who are suspended or expelled for such behavior will learn anything from that kind of punishment.

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