When I reflect back on this past semester, I acknowledge the trials that I faced with a grain of salt. The attacks I confronted from former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell were harsh and inexcusable by anyone’s standards. The University, however, responded with a unified voice in support of the LGBT community, to tell Shirvell and those who hold similar views that such conduct is not permissible in our community and an otherwise horrible incident was turned into something positive for Michigan.

I was lucky. I was a member of a community that taught me how to handle a situation like this, how to hold strong and how to remain poised in the face of adversity. I belong to a community that would not stand for unwarranted attacks on any targeted person or group, no matter what kind of bully.

But not every student has this resource today in America. It saddens me to know that while some of us are privileged to live in communities that protect our students from bullies, other students across the nation aren’t as lucky, and may not have access to a supportive community.

We live in a nation that sits idly by as those around us are taunted, mocked, ridiculed and even attacked because they are different. We live in a nation where bullying is looked on as a rite of passage for students.

Bullying is treated as a problem without a solution — an issue schools must simply cope with. Sixty to 80 percent of all students are bullied during their primary and secondary education, and bulling victims are up to nine times more likely to consider suicide during this time. Despite the epidemic in schools, many school administrators still view bullying as a non-issue. Worst of all, students who are bullied don’t saying anything to administrators for fear of what their bullies may do to them. This is why students at the University are standing up and fighting back. On Saturday, Feb. 19 students at the University will be traveling to the Ypsilanti District Library to support the kick-off of a statewide Anti-Bullying campaign. All students deserve their chance to feel safe and protected when they go to school, and University students will be taking the first step to ensure that happens.

We must advocate for nothing less than zero-tolerance bullying policies in our communities if we want attitudes toward bullying to change. There is no excuse for anyone who witnesses bullying and does not step in. We all have to be brave enough to take a stand whenever necessary and challenge those around us to do the same. We need our towns, cities and states to create support networks for those who have been targeted, no matter what they have been targeted for. We need policies that reward those who say something when they combat bullying in schools.

Students in our country deserve communities that won’t support standing idly by. We must prove to those students who are terrified to go to school everyday because of what others might think, say or do to them that they have a support network now — not that they will have one in the future.

Bullying should not be seen as a precursor to violence, but should be treated as an act of violence. If we continue to ignore the impact of bullying on our schools, we all will be committing an act of violence against our country’s youth.

I hope every community feels the need to take action to protect their youth and stop bullying. The Michigan Student Assembly will be providing free transportation to the anti-bullying conference this Saturday, Feb. 19. If you would like to reserve a spot, please visit www.msa.umich.edu. All students are welcome.

Chris Armstrong is the president of Michigan Student Assembly. He can be reached at charmstr@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.