It was a complete honor to be a part of Mexico City’s first international conference on bullying earlier this week. Bringing together speakers from around the world—including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain—the Congreso Internacional de Bullying was hosted by the office of Mexico City’s Secretary of Education, Maestro (Mtro.) Mario Delgado Carrillo.
As the opening speaker, I shared the context of some of the most tragic bullying stories the U.S. has endured these last few years, especially in the form of bullycides, which is the preferred term when referring to suicides that have resulted from bullying. Stories such as those of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, Phoebe Prince, and Tyler Clementi, have catapulted us into an even more pressing era for making change in our schools.
Supported by behind-the-scenes help from safe schools activist Shannon Cuttle, founder and director of the Safe Schools Action Network, and Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Educators Network), I highlighted some of the urgent policy issues facing anti-bullying advocates, including Congress’s need to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act as well as the Student Non-Discrimination Act. If passed, both bills would ideally work together to improve the lives of LGBT as well as gender non-conforming youth in schools across the country.
During my talk, I also showed a clip from the recent White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, which placed both the President and Michelle Obama in the spotlight both as parents and as public servants concerned about bullying.
Fellow speakers held equally important and pressing concerns regarding bullying. Creating “espacios de paz” or spaces of peace in Mexico City’s schools are on Secretary of Education Mario Delgado Carrillo’s mind.
Argentina’s Alejandro Castro Santander stressed how violence is an “enfermedad social” or social illness that is often silenced. Santander argued that violence is further subsumed into this silence by the fact that we have become desensitized to it within our respective cultures.
Antonio Jesús Rodríguez, a researcher from the University of Córdoba in Spain, highlighted the psychological impact of school violence. Reinaldo Pontes, from Brazil’s Observatório de Violências en Nas Escolas (Observatory of Violence in Schools), shared research being done to measure school climate in northern Brazil’s Belém do Pará’s public schools.
I walked away from the conference feeling sad that the various forms of bullying that we see in the U.S.—such as cyberbullying—are also prevalent throughout Latin America and Europe. What made me hopeful, however, is that the people who attended the conference—such as educators and social workers, academics and activists—were all there to create a unified, and indeed international, front to help not only those who are being bullied but also those who are bullies.
Creating safe schools is not easy, but it makes it feel much less lonely knowing that somewhere in Belém, Cordoba, Mendoza, and Mexico City, we are all working together to make spaces of peace.