Two years ago, a 16-year-old San Clemente, California high school student committed suicide after enduring relentless bullying at the hands of four teenage boys.
Earlier this year, a 14-year-old Loveland, Colorado middle school student also took her own life after reportedly enduring sustained harassment.
These cases represent the extreme impact of bullying, a problem that directly impacts nearly six million -- or 30% -- of our children. The trends are disturbing, to say the least, and curbing them will take a concerted effort by parents, schools, elected officials, and especially the private sector. Corporations, particularly those with a broad impact on young people, have the unique ability to channel resources toward producing and distributing highly influential educational campaigns that resonate among them.
One such effort is the 'be a STAR' campaign, founded by The Creative Coalition and WWE. The effort, which aims to harness the arts to promote tolerance and respect among young people, is supported by a coalition of more than two dozen organizations with considerable influence, including the National Education Association (NEA) and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), among others.
The Huffington Post recently published an article from author and educator Rosalind Wiseman ("The NEA and WWE's New Anti-Bullying Campaign") who criticizes WWE for their leadership role taken in creating the anti-bullying coalition. The article questions WWE's motives, wonders why NEA, The Creative Coalition, and GLAAD chose to partner with WWE, and unfairly suggests that because of WWE's brand of entertainment, the company has no moral authority to promote non-violence and tolerance among kids.
WWE is scripted entertainment -- just like Hollywood movies or television shows -- yet Wiseman's article doesn't hold entertainment companies who produce violent movies, television programs, or reality programming to the same standard. Nor does it suggest athletes from sports like football, MMA, or hockey should be disqualified from promoting anti-bullying messages. Every young person should be taught that just because something is portrayed in entertainment or sports, it doesn't mean it should be replicated as a way to deal with real-life issues. In criticizing WWE, the article invokes some videos from WWE's bygone TV-14 era, suggesting the company actually contributes to bullying. If anyone is offended by that content, it should be known that several years ago, WWE took the initiative to make its programming more family friendly. Today, all of its content is rated PG by the networks' standards and practices departments.
The bottom line is that the NEA, The Creative Coalition and GLAAD are harnessing the power of the WWE brand to promote tolerance and raise public awareness about bullying. 13 million viewers tuning in each week to WWE programming is pretty powerful wattage to spread the anti-bullying message.