October is National Bullying Prevention Month and last Thursday was Spirit Day, an annual event GLAAD started back in 2010 where students, teachers, and morning show hosts all wear purple to draw attention to the school bullying epidemic. Remember bullying? Five years ago it was all over the news, amidst a horrifying wave of suicides among LGBT youth. These days you don’t hear about it so much. So… is the bullying epidemic over?
Bullying data compiled in the 2013 biennial report from by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reveals that 85 percent of LGBT students report verbal harassment, while 30 percent missed at least one day of school in the prior month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Only ten percent of school districts have anti-bullying policies with explicit protections for students based upon actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, while nearly thirty percent have no anti-bullying policy at all.
Spirit Day was the invention of a Canadian teenager named Brittany McMillan, who herself experienced bullying for several years. The campaign has gathered a lot of support over the years from celebrities and brands that want to position themselves as LGBT-friendly, even ones you might not expect, like the WWE and the much-maligned Barilla pasta company.
On Spirit Day, New York City list the Empire State Building in purple, and the White House hosted a Tumblr Q&A. Queer celebrities Laverne Cox, Laura Jane Grace and Ty Herndon all signed on, as did other big names like Kim Kardashian West and Hillary Clinton, as well as a long list of other random celebs like David Copperfield, Tori Amos and Tom Arnold. While certain organizations use the #spiritday hashtag to make bad jokes, it’s generally a win-win situation for celebrities to come out in favor of Spirit Day — it makes them seem like nicer people without requiring much time or effort.
If instances of bullying have gone down, as some studies suggest, then that’s great news! But if the fickle news media has just moved on to the next thing, then that’s a serious problem.
Here’s a quick recap of the purple people (and brands) spotted on social media this morning, from television shows to LGBT celebrities:
— Target (@Target) October 15, 2015
— Orange Is the New… (@OITNB) October 15, 2015
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) October 15, 2015
— Young & The Restless (@YRInsider) October 15, 2015
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 15, 2015
Laws about bullying vary from state to state. Information about all fifty state policies can be found on the federal government website StopBullying.org. For those that have considered suicide, the site suggests that victims of bullying call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.