A New Approach to Bullying: Start Empathy

Did you know that the issue of peer-to-peer bullying in schools around the US has been gaining public awareness, with activist organizing and enterprising efforts? And that it has even been a focus of federal policy discussion?


In March of 2011, President Obama and the First Lady called for a united effort to address bullying at the first ever White House Conference on Bully Prevention, involving the US Department of Education and several other government agencies.


Obama declared:


[We must] dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept. As parents and students; teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe. (Source: US Dept of Education)


Building on this energy, the federal secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services re-launched the Stop Bullying website (first released over a year ago) in March 2012, an interactive resource that equips youth, parents, educators, and communities with knowledge and strategies to stop and prevent bullying.

In July and September 2012, the U.S. Department of Ed’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students also released training materials and toolkits for classroom teachers, educators, and school bus drivers to effectively respond to, prevent, and reduce bullying occurrences.


In the world of social entrepreneurship, Ashoka’s Youth Venture and The Bully Project took on the issue in a different way this past spring with the launch of Stop Bullying: Start Empathy. This social action campaign (for the film Bully, a hard-hitting documentary on bullying’s impact on youth) supports young people working to tackle bullying before it starts, by putting empathy into practice and ultimately creating a future where empathy learning is the norm.


One such Changemaker, 14-year-old Aidan Benavides of New Jersey, started the project Aiden’s Voice after years of bullying to help other youth with no one to turn to. The group offers peer support and counseling to students experiencing bullying, with a Facebook page sharing inspirational quotes, motivational stories, and advice from those who have been there. In addition, Aiden’s Voice raises awareness in the educational community of parents, educators, and students, and raises funds for school-based initiatives with proven results.  (Source: Start Empathy blog)


Got a project idea of your own? Or want to get involved in anti-bullying efforts?

Learn more and join the Start Empathy campaign HERE!