Bullying Has Ripple Effect on Health Care, Business, Law Enforcement, Says DOJ

By Susan Jones | August 7, 2012 | 11:14 AM EDT

Student plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin school district, walk into a news conference in Minneapolis, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, David Joles)

(CNSNews.com) - When students are bullied, the entire nation pays the price, Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West told the 2012 Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington on Tuesday.

But in his speech, West offered only one specific example of how the Obama administration has intervened to stop bullying, and that case involved homosexuality, which in recent years has become synonymous with bullying.

Bullying "presents challenges that affect us all," West told the summit. "When kids who are the targets of bullies show up in school, not ready to learn because they’re too afraid...that’s not just a challenge for the victim or his or her family; that becomes an education challenge.  And when those bullied children show up in doctor’s offices and clinics suffering from anxiety or depression or a whole host of other issues, that becomes a health care challenge.  

"And when those bullied victims leave school and can’t find jobs because they don’t have the skills employers need because, as the research indicates, they’re more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school, then that becomes a business community challenge.  And when those who bully come into contact with the criminal justice system as convicted defendants, as they’re more likely to do, according to trends we see, then that becomes a law enforcement challenge."  

West told the conference that "single acts of bullying are not events in isolation" but are "like ripples in a lake that begin at a small center, emanating outward and growing in size, to touch shores unforeseen."

He said the magnitude of the problem is why the Obama administration is so "actively engaged in efforts to prevent bullying."

For example, West noted that in March, the Departments of Justice and Education entered into a consent decree with Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District after a DOJ civil rights investigation found that "several students were skipping school, dropping out, even contemplating suicide because of severe harassment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation."

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Although the U.S. Justice Department says it has tried to making bullying-prevention a national priority, "our work is far from over," West told the gathering.

"We must continue to stand up, to speak out, and to act in ways both big and small – public and private -- to reinforce the message that bullying knows no proper place," he said.

However, as one conservative group has noted, "anti-bullying" efforts may end up bullying Christians and others whose religious beliefs do not condone homosexuality.

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