Friday, October 28, 2011

Important New Report on Bullying and Suicide

The Safe Schools Coalition announced a new report on bullying and suicide.  We thought our readers would like to learn about it.

From the Safe Schools Coalition:

Dear Safe Schools Coalition Members and Friends:

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has released Suicide and Bullying Issue Brief examining the relationship between suicide and bullying among children and adolescents, with Special Attention to LGBT Youth.

Legitimate source? Yes. The SPRC is supported by a grant (1 U79 SM059945-01) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

SPRC’s Suicide and Bullying Issue Brief is a review and analysis of the literature. It examines the relationship between suicide and bullying among children and adolescents, with special attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. It also explores strategies for preventing these problems. This short publication can be downloaded at

Bullying and Suicide--Klomek, A. B., Kleinman, M., Altschuler, E., Marrocco, F., Amakawa, L., & Gould, M. S. (2011). High school bullying as a risk for later depression and suicidality. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 41(5), 501-516.

Link to Abstract --

SOURCE: Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s The Weekly Spark, October 21, 2011

Excerpted from the brief, re: LGBT youth:

~ LGBT youth attempt suicide at a rate 2–4 times higher than that of their heterosexual peers.

~ A recent review of the research identified 19 studies linking suicidal behavior in lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents to bullying at school, especially among young people with “cross-gender appearance, traits, or behaviors”.

~ LGBT youth experience more bullying (including physical violence and injury) at school than their heterosexual peers.

~ A review of the research found that the relationship between bullying and suicide risk was stronger for LGB youth than for heterosexual youth.

Excerpted from the report, re: prevention:

Comprehensive school-based prevention programs can help prevent suicidal behavior. Research and experience suggest that school-based suicide prevention programs should not focus narrowly on student education and life skills training but also include the following:

• Activities to identify young people at risk of suicide (such as gatekeeper training and screening)

• Referrals to mental health services

The evidence for the effectiveness of school-based bullying prevention programs is mixed.


The following action steps may help create synergy in addressing both suicide and bullying.

• Start prevention early. Bullying begins at an age before many of the warning signs of suicide are evident. Intervening in bullying among younger children, and assessing both bullies and victims of bullying for risk factors associated with suicide, may have significant benefits as children enter the developmental stage when suicide risk begins to rise.

• Keep up with technology. Bullying often takes place in areas hidden from adult supervision. Cyberspace has become such an area. At the same time, young people may also use social media and new technologies to express suicidal thoughts that they are unwilling to share with their parents and other adults. Both bullying prevention programs and suicide prevention programs need to learn how to navigate in this new world.

• Pay special attention to the needs of LGBT youth and young people who do not conform to gender expectations. These youth are at increased risk for both bullying victimization and suicidal behavior. It is essential to respond to the needs of these young people, especially the need for an environment in which they feel safe, not just from physical harm, but from intolerance and assaults upon their emotional well-being.

• Use a comprehensive approach. Reducing the risk of bullying and suicide requires interventions that focus on young people (e.g., mental health services for youth suffering from depression) as well as the environment (especially the school and family environments) in which they live.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More Collateral Damage from the Alabama Anti-Immigration Law

The Associated Press (October 22, 2011) reports that "Spanish-speaking parents say their children are facing more bullying and taunts at school since Alabama's tough crackdown on illegal immigration took effect last month. Many blame the name-calling on fallout from the law...."  One can only wonder how many more are afraid to come forward.

Residents can report any incidents of bullying, threats or violence on a special telephone hotline and e-mail address that has been set up by the Justice Department.


The problem of bullying is finally starting to gain national attention.  A good film around which to start a community discussion is "Bullied, A Student,  A School, and a Case that Made History."  It is put out by the Teaching Tolerance folks. 

Bullied: A Student, A School and a Case that Made History

Bullied is a documentary film that chronicles one student’s ordeal at the hands of anti-gay bullies and offers an inspiring message of hope to those fighting harassment today. It can become a cornerstone of anti-bullying efforts in middle and high schools.
Bullied includes:

•A 40-minute documentary film (DVD), with closed captioning and with Spanish subtitles

•A two-part viewer’s guide with standards-aligned lesson plans and activities for use in staff development

•Additional materials online

Bullied is designed to help administrators, teachers and counselors create a safer school environment for all students, not just those who are gay and lesbian. It is also intended to help all students understand the terrible toll bullying can take on its victims, and to encourage students to stand up for their classmates who are being harassed.
Readers can obtain a copy at:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Alabama from Checking Student Immigration Status

UPDATE:   The Associated Press reports that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a part of Alabama's anti-immigration law that required schools to check the immigration status of students.  It has been reported that large numbers of Hispanic students have been absent from schools since the law went into effect.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Latest Casualty of Alabama’s New Anti-Immigration Law: The Children

A recent Associated Press article (September 30, 2011) has pointed out a disturbing consequence of Alabama’s new anti-immigration law – a vanishing number of Hispanic students from the public schools. One of the provisions of the new law requires schools to gather statistics on the number of new undocumented students attending the schools after September 2011. The AP article reports that “local and state officials are pleading with immigrant families to keep their children enrolled" and have tried to assuage some of their fears. Despite the reassurances that the law does not ban anyone from school, many families are reportedly starting to withdraw their children or planning to leave the state.

Although the law purports to collect statistics only, it is having a strong intimidating effect. In fact, in an early analysis of the original law, the ACLU had pointed out “that deterring children from school was one of HB 56’s motivating purposes. For example, HB 56’s sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon, described the bill as motivated by the costs of ‘educat[ing] the children of illegal immigrants,’ and predicted that enforcing HB 56 will result in ‘cost savings for this state.’” (Go to for “Preliminary Analysis of HB 56 Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act”)

 The bill does indeed seem to have this effect of driving children away from the public schools even if it doesn’t require citizenship for enrollment in its schools. In fact, as far back as 1982 in a landmark case, Plyler v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not deny access to a free public education to children on the basis of their immigrant status. Despite the fact that this case was decided almost thirty years ago, the U.S. Department of Education had to recently remind school districts in a letter released on May 10, 2011 that expressed concerns that some districts were discouraging undocumented children from enrolling in their schools.  At the same time, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has been hearing several complaints.

On September 28th, the N.Y.Times reported that most of the new Alabama law that had been challenged by the Obama administration and civil rights groups was upheld by Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the Federal District Court in Birmingham. While blocking the provision that would have barred illegal immigrants from enrolling in or attending public universities, she did uphold the section that requires elementary and secondary schools to determine the immigration status of newly enrolled students.
The civil rights groups challenged this last section on the ground that it would unlawfully deter students from enrolling in school, even if it did not explicitly allow schools to turn students away. The judge dismissed their challenge for lack of standing, though she did not rule on the argument’s merits.
The Obama administration has announced that it will be appealing the ruling and has filed court documents on Friday. We will continue to keep readers informed of future coverage of the case and its consequences.