On the anniversary of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker Hoover's suicide due to bullying, his mother Sirdeaner Walker and GLSEN have launched a petition and call to action in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal anti-bullying bill with 101 bipartisan cosponsors.
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover took his life on April 6, 2009, after enduring constant bullying at school, including being called "gay" and a "faggot" despite the fact he did not identify as gay.
The petition can be found at www.stopstudentbullying.org/carl.cfm. A Facebook event encouraging those concerned about bullying to spend five minutes in memory of Carl on April 6 and call their Representative can be found at www.facebook.com/event.php.
"It is difficult to put into words what it feels like to remember that terrible day," Walker said. "But it is not difficult at all to do something positive in Carl's memory. That is why I hope you will join me in taking a moment from your busy day to reflect on Carl's life and his tragic suicide — and to remember that bullying in schools has very serious and life-threatening consequences."
Walker has spent the year since Carl's death raising awareness of the fact that bullying is a national public health crisis. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, ABC's World News and Anderson Cooper 360, among others, to tell Carl's story and to call for action against bullying. She also has testified on Capitol Hill in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act, H.R. 2262, would require schools that receive federal education funding to implement a comprehensive, enumerated anti-bullying policy that also requires schools to report bullying incidents.
The bill is endorsed by the National Safe Schools Partnership, a coalition led by GLSEN and representing more than 60 national education, health, civil rights, youth development and other organizations. Members include Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Schools Psychologists and National Education Association.
Nearly two-thirds ( 65% ) of middle and high school students reported being harassed or assaulted during the past year and more than a third ( 37% ) said that bullying, name-calling or harassment is a somewhat or very serious problem at their school, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 Harris Interactive report commissioned by GLSEN.
However, students whose schools had a comprehensive, enumerated anti-bullying policy were less likely than other students to report a serious harassment problem at school ( 33% vs. 44% ) .
"Implementing enumerated anti-bullying policies in our nation's schools is an important first step in reducing the pervasive problem of bullying," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "Schools should be safe places for all students, and passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act becomes more crucial with each tragic example of a life lost to bullying."