07/02/2012 09:15 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

No More Band-Aids on Bullying

"Hey, ACLU, I'm a gay ninth-grader. My teachers don't treat me differently
because of my gender expression. I have both gay and straight friends. I get
to live my life without being discriminated against. I've never been bullied.
And I feel safe at school every day."

We've never gotten that call here at the ACLU of Southern California
(ACLU/SC) LGBTQ Student Rights Project. More often, we get calls about
incidences of school bullying that no one should have to endure. We hear
from students who face judgmental teachers, unsympathetic principals, and
ineffective superintendents, while being harassed by their peers on a daily
basis. We work toward a future that promises that all students, including
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, feel safe
expressing themselves.

But trying to address all the calls we get about anti-LGBTQ bullying feels like
treating the symptoms without addressing the illness. The real issue is this:
How do we stop the calls from coming in?

The solution to the national bullying problem isn't being a bystander until
something bad happens. Just like the world's best ambulance driver can't
prevent a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel, the most experienced
lawyer can't stop students from bullying their peers. We have to teach
school officials how to address issues of unsafe school climates before
harassment starts or escalates.

Our LGBTQ Student Rights Project works with schools to create safe school
environments. We educate schools on LGBTQ student rights, about the
preventative policies and procedures they should adopt to avoid finding
themselves in a courtroom, and we connect them to the community.

The course's video lectures and interviews instruct teachers how to
intervene in bullying situations and how to create teachable moments. Most
important, it teaches the steps educators can take to preventing bullying
and harassment before it starts.

These programs make a difference in students' lives, but they depend on
school cooperation to make these changes. How do we get schools to take a
stance against bullying?

It starts with you: parents and their children need to become the anti-
bullying champions of their own school experiences. All across California,
students have the right to feel safe in their schools, and their parents have
the right to demand it. Families in our community must knock on their
principals' and superintendents' doors with these tools in hand and tell
them that we aren't going to wait to end bullying until after another
tragedy occurs.