Bullying conference spotlights students with disabilities

This is a graphic has a photo of the White House at the bottom and an American flag at the top.
Bullying Conference Comes to White House

The White House held a Conference on Bullying Prevention on March 10, where President Obama met with students and education and health professionals to discuss preventive measures in schools.

Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network accompanied 16-year-old Ian Foster, a high school sophomore from Michigan, at the event, according to an NDRN news release. In one of his many incidents as a bullying victim, Foster, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and paralysis on his right side, was dumped out of a wheelchair and thrown to the ground. Despite repeated similar incidents, his school was unresponsive.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Ian to share his experiences on the bullying he has received since middle school,” said Elmer L. Cerano, executive director of Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service. “In addition, this will allow Ian to share his thoughts with other student’s on preventive measures.”

President Obama shared with the audience some of his grade school experiences.

“If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up,” he said, according to the NDRN release. “With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. I didn’t emerge unscathed.”

The conference is the latest in a number of steps taken by the Obama Administration to spur antibullying efforts, following multiple high-profile teenage suicides in fall. These actions include the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights sending a letter to educators explaining their bullying prevention duties, Education Secretary Arne Duncan providing guidance to state officials on resources and best practices to reduce bullying and the administration creating a new Web site, StopBullying.gov, to increase bullying awareness, according to an article in The New York Times.

Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.