President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with more than 150 parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers at a White House conference on March 10 in an effort to address the problem of youth bullying.

Those in attendance discussed methods to achieve safer schools and communities for the nation’s students. One of the objectives of the conference was to dismiss the idea that bullying is a part of growing up.

“Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept. As parents and students; teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe.” Obama said in a prepared statement.

“As parents, this issue really hits home for us. It breaks our hearts to think that any child feels afraid every day in the classroom, on the playground, or even online,” the first lady said. “I hope that all of you—and everyone watching online—will walk away from this conference with new ideas and solutions that you can take back to your own schools and communities.”

The conference also highlighted private, nonprofit, and federal commitments to prevent bullying. MTV and Facebook were among the organizations that unveiled initiatives against bullying.

The conference comes amid growing media coverage of bullying. Over the last few years, news stories of fatalities caused by bullying have gained national awareness, including the death of Abraham Biggs of Florida in 2008. The 19-year-old, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, committed suicide on a live Internet broadcast while viewers egged him on.

In 2010, Shaniya Boyd, an 8-year-old with cerebral palsy, threatened to commit suicide after telling school officials she was attacked and teased by classmates at her Baltimore City elementary school.

Courtney Bonaparte

Special to the AFRO