Sirdeaner Walker Testifies Before House Subcommittees in Support of Safe Schools Improvement Act
Media Contact: Andy Marra // Public Relations Manager 646-388-6575 // firstname.lastname@example.org Jul 08, 2009
WASHINGTON, July 8, 2009 - Sirdeaner Walker, the mother of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover, who died by suicide after enduring constant bullying at school, testified today in front of the House Subcommittees on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and Healthy Families and Communities on Wednesday in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act - federal legislation to require that schools adopt anti-bullying policies.
Carl, who attended New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Mass., took his own life April 6 after enduring constant bullying at school, including being called "gay" and "faggot" even though he did not identify as gay.
"Carl liked football and basketball and playing video games with his little brother," Walker testified. "He loved the Lord and he loved his family. What could make a child his age despair so much that he would take his own life? That question haunts me to this day, and I will probably never know the answer.
"School bullying is a national crisis, and we need a national solution to deal with it. That is why I am here today. Teachers, administrators and other school personnel need additional support and clear guidance about how to ensure that all kids feel safe in school. Congress can make sure they have that guidance and support by making anti-bullying policies mandatory in all of our nation's schools."
The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require schools that receive Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act funding to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories often targeted by bullies, including race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and others. It also requires states to include bullying and harassment data in their state-wide needs assessments reporting.
The bill is sponsored by Calif. Rep. Linda Sanchez, who is joined by lead cosponsors Fla. Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and N.Y. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy among the 60 bipartisan cosponsors.
"Students cannot learn and teachers cannot teach in environments that aren't safe," Rep. McCarthy said at the hearing. "Schools should be sanctuaries for our children to learn and get the tools they need to succeed in life, not places where children have to worry about physical or emotional violence."
Nearly two-thirds of middle and high school students (65%) said they had been bullied in school in the past year, according to
From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report from GLSEN and Harris Interactive based on survey results from 3,450 secondary school students from across the United States.
"GLSEN thanks the subcommittees for taking the time to listen to an esteemed panel of students, parents and youth advocates who are leading the effort to find solutions to the endemic problem of bullying in America's schools," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "We also would like to thank Sirdeaner Walker for her courage in telling her story so that other families may not have to endure the unthinkable tragedy of losing a child due in part to bullying.
"We urge Congress to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act. As a nation, we must begin to address school bullying as the public health risk that it is. A federal anti-bullying policy is an important step toward making sure that all students are safe in school."
Added Walker: "The most important thing I've learned is that bullying is not an inevitable part of growing up. It can be prevented. And there isn't a moment to lose."
Pledge your support for safe schools act by pleding to Take A Stand on standtogether.tv, a website Extreme Makeover: Home Edition created to help Sirdeaner continue to organize concerned people like you to make schools safe!.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.