Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama’s top advisors, today called the movie “Bully,” a documentary film that examines the lives of bullied youth and teens, “a powerful call to action.” Jarrett has often been a point-person for the President on LGBT issues, despite her having called homosexuality a “lifestyle” in 2010. “I believe that day by day, step by step, we will change not just our laws and policies, but behavior, so that every young person is able to thrive in our schools and communities, without worrying about being bullied,” Jarrett wrote.
“Recently, I watched the movie BULLY with my mom. We were both deeply moved by the film and the stories it tells of students, families, and communities impacted by bullying,” Jarrett posted on the White House blog this afternoon.
Earlier today, we screened BULLY at the White House. We were joined by bullying prevention advocates from a range of communities – LGBT, AAPI, faith, disability, and others – as well as educational partners and key Obama Administration staff who work on these issues every day, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Before the film, a panel of nationally recognized experts on bullying prevention spoke from their perspectives about challenges and opportunities, and after the film, we heard from Lee Hirsch, the director and filmmaker, and several of the students and families who were directly impacted by bullying and intolerance and whose stories were featured in the film.
This film is a powerful call to action: We must do everything we can to work toward the day when no young person or family suffers the pain, agony, and loss caused by bulling in our schools and communities.
Jarrett also detailed “Administrative actions” that she labeled “critically important – and effective,” including President Obama’s “It Gets Better” video, “the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention,” and the Department of Education’s guidance to schools, colleges, and universities, making it clear that existing civil rights laws apply to bullying.”
Jarrett also pointed to today’s announcement by the Administration that it is now supporting two anti-LGBT bullying bills,
We also hope that Congress will take action to ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment by passing the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA). These pieces of legislation are critically important to addressing bullying in our schools and safeguarding our most vulnerable students. The Student Non-Discrimination Act, sponsored by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, and Representative Jared Polis of Colorado, would prohibit discrimination in public schools against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. And the Safe Schools Improvement Act, sponsored by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Representative Linda Sanchez of California, would require school districts to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. I would also like to thank Illinois Representative Danny Davis for his advocacy on this issue. All of our students have the same right to go to school in an environment free of discrimination and harassment, and that’s why the President supports these two important pieces of legislation and wants to work with Congress as they move forward in the process.
It’s great that Obama is rounding up the troops to come out in support of anti-bullying legislation and drawing the public’s eye to the plight on bullied youth and teens, certainly via an important vehicle like “Bully.” But until the President joins with the majority of Americans in supporting full civil marriage equality and fill civil rights for all LGBT people, this is lip service, and it’s not enough.
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