Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Federal Partners in Bullying
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to take part in this exciting - and important - summit. I think this summit is really helping to sharpen our focus on the problem of bullying.
As we all know, bullying isn't new. It existed long before strangers could become digital "friends" - or friends could become enemies when private conversations are posted publicly. The methods may have changed, but the outcomes never do: Pain. Isolation. Insecurity. Abandonment. Fear. These are all powerful emotions. And, bullying, as we continue to learn, is all about power.
So, how do we develop policies to shift the balance of power - to prevent bullying? The first answer - the easy answer - is together. That's why it's so great to be here with representatives from so many federal agencies, and to be hearing from people in various disciplines on the state and local levels. Together, we can change the power dynamics at play in bullying.
The more nuanced answer to how policy can prevent bullying involves comprehensive research and targeted funding. We need to understand the problem, evaluate programs designed to combat it, and spend wisely to eradicate it.
In terms of research, the Justice Department has supported several recent studies to evaluate school-based bullying programs and measure peer victimization in schools. You'll hear from Ken Seeley, the President of the National Center for School Engagement, later this morning about the peer victimization study.
David Farrington and Maria Ttofi conducted an important meta-analysis of existing school-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization. I know you heard a bit about these results yesterday, but I'd like to highlight a few key points.
In addition to showing that school-based programs work, their study demonstrates the need for programs designed around specific elements that have been shown to be effective.
Two crucial components of successful programs, according to their analysis, were duration and intensity. The length of programs and the number of hours dedicated to them matter. For bullying programs, more is more. Parent trainings and meetings also significantly improved program outcomes. Finally, firm, but appropriate, disciplinary methods that hold bullies accountable for their actions were associated with successful programs.
New bullying policies must call for programs that are based on evidence like this - evidence we already have. Especially as school systems - and, really, everyone - face unprecedented budget shortfalls, we have to demand that programs generate results. There is no room - and certainly no money - for guesswork.
That's why we're continuing to fund research on bullying and related topics. The Department's National Institute of Justice dedicated more than $2.5 million to studies on teen dating violence in 2009, and has partnered with other federal agencies to provide more than $2 million in 2010.
Often, teen relationships can lead to jealousy, misunderstanding, bullying, and - most tragically - physical violence. Teen dating violence - like bullying - is really about power and control, and it impacts a similar, if not identical, population.
NIJ's studies are still ongoing, but they will help us understand the prevalence of relationship abuse among teens. Several also focus on special populations, including high-risk youth and Latino youth.
All of our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's programs work to make kids safer and stronger, but one in particular fights negative peer influences, and that's mentoring. In 2009, OJJDP dedicated more than $100 million to mentoring programs, and they are matching that amount in 2010.
Many of the negative outcomes of bullying that we have heard so much about - poor school attendance and performance, low self-esteem, and bad habits - are the same problems that mentoring effectively combats. Social science research demonstrates that kids involved in mentoring programs are less likely to use drugs, achieve higher grade point averages, and build stronger relationships with parents and peers. If we can empower potential victims, we can more quickly shift the bullying power dynamic.
OJJDP doesn't just fund mentoring programs; it also supports evaluations of existing programs. The outcomes from these evaluations will help us continue to develop smarter, more effective strategies to address bullying.
The Department of Justice's efforts to fight bullying aren't limited to research and funding. Throughout the Department, we are integrating our work to address bullying into our larger initiative to protect children from violence.
Now, I'm so pleased to have the opportunity to introduce Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, who I know will have a lot more to say on this subject.
As the Associate Attorney General, Tom Perrelli supervises a broad portfolio ranging from the Civil Rights Division to my Office's research and grant programs. He is a Justice Department veteran, having held positions including Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno and Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division's Federal Programs Branch. He also spent years in private practice before returning to the Department in his current capacity.
Tom Perrelli is a strong believer in a Justice Department built on partnerships - federal, state, and local partnerships. He also knows that education and school-based initiatives are essential in our efforts to promote public safety. That's why he's here today. His presence is a strong indication of this Justice Department's dedication to policies that will make bullying an old issue.
Please welcome Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli.
Back to Speeches