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Tackling Bullying: Educators, Officials Gather in Washington to Strategize

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Officials from several federal agencies and the White House are meeting with educators in Washington today to talk about successes and persistent challenges in anti-bullying efforts. The fourth annual anti-bullying summit, called "Keeping Kids Safe: Opportunities and Challenges in Bullying Prevention," meets at the U.S. Department of Education building. 

During the daylong event, participants will talk about trends in anti-bullying policies and practice, social-emotional learning strategies, promising prevention efforts, cyberbullying, and supportive school discipline. They'll also have breakout sessions about state and federal laws and guidance, and related behaviors—hazing and dating violence. And they're going to unveil an anti-bullying app.bully-app-iphone.png

Among the speakers, attendees will hear from Roberto Rodríguez, the deputy assistant to the president;  Deb Delisle, the assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the Education Department; and Jonathan Brice, the deputy assistant secretary in that office. From a news release about the event:

"Since the Department's first-ever bullying summit in 2010, considerable effort has been made by both the public and private sectors to bring attention to bullying and the challenges of addressing it. This year's summit will expand on previous years' goals of crafting a national strategy to prevent bullying, and will work toward engaging private and public organizations committed to providing needed tools and resources to ensure the safety of students."

There's an app for that.

Also at the summit, the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will announce "KnowBullying," described in the news release as "a free smartphone app created to provide parents, caretakers, educators and others with information and communication support to help prevent bullying and build resilience in children. The app is designed to address the various needs of children ages 3 to 6, 7 to 13, and teens."

I downloaded the app and played around with it a bit. The app lets you program in the names and ages of your kids (my hypothetical daughter is a 10-year-old named Susan) and set reminders to talk to them and ask them questions about their experiences at school. The reminders and questions are set to be age appropriate for your child. Here are some of the things my iPhone told me to ask hypothetical Susan:

  • "If you could give the most powerful person in the world advice, what would that be?"
  • "Share one thing that happened today."
  • "Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world? Why?"
  • "What is lunch time like at school? Who do you sit with, what do you do, what do you talk about?"
  • "What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?"

Hypothetical Susan was pretty quiet when I asked her these questions, what with being hypothetical and all. For real children, the app is designed to "empower parents" by equipping them with information, Paolo del Vecchio, the director of SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services, said in a release. The app also includes tips for intervening in bullying situations and links to information about things like LGBT bullying, suicide prevention, and state laws.

You can download the app here. If you do, let me know what you think of it.

 Photo: SAMHSA

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