As is all too often the case, it has taken the loss of a life to focus the country on an issue that should by its very existence scream for resolution.
Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi's 18-year-old body was found in the Hudson River on Sept. 30. Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate and another college classmate allegedly placed a camera in his dorm room and streamed a sexual encounter he had with another young man on the Internet.
Clementi was a victim of cyber-bullying. In light of his recent death, much attention has been focused on a bill currently in Congress which would include more anti-bullying programs in public schools and require that such programs explicitly address bullying based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation and perceived or actual gender identity.
The Lamron enthusiastically supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which is designed to protect all children from bullying by calling on all schools that receive federal funding to implement anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct that explicitly prohibit bullying based on any of the aforementioned traits.
This can hold nothing but good for students, as data suggest that when such specific instances of bullying are explicitly addressed, rates of bullying for all students - not just minorities - go down.
The major argument against this legislation is that in order to stop bullying, we should focus not on why the victims are being bullied, but on stopping the actions of the bully. This argument falls apart, however, because of how painfully evident it is that those two things are inseparable.
You can't talk about bullying without talking about why the victim was targeted. A victim of bullying is pushed by both the pressures of a society that stigmatizes him or her, be it because of his or her sexual orientation, race or weight, and by the individual bullies themselves. We need to directly address bullying behavior, but we must also address the atmosphere that allows the bullying to thrive.
This legislation, therefore, is not a cure-all, but it is a step in the right direction.