President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are hosting a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention today, according to McClatchy Newspapers. They’ll bring parents, teachers, and experts to the executive mansion for a series of talks and seminars on how to stop bullying and help victims survive it. Critics say it’s a poor use of the president’s time and energy at a time of urgent, needs elsewhere. They question whether the federal government even needs to get involved.
Obama thinks he can turn a problem that troubles many localities into a national priority. Some parents of children who’ve killed themselves agree; they want Congress to enact a national law ordering schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. “It’s something we care about not only as president and first lady but also as parents,” says Michelle Obama. Sirdeaner Walker, whose 11-year-old son killed himself two years ago after enduring anti-gay slurs, said said a top goal is getting Congress to pass the proposed Safe Schools Improvement Act. It would require schools receiving federal money to adopt policies prohibiting bullying and harassment, including bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Massachusetts has since passed an anti-bullying law, but she said that federal legislation is needed to cover states that lack such laws.