In a move a federal education official described as unprecedented, the Obama administration is announcing today that schools that do not prevent bullying may lose federal funds.
Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Department of Education may strip federal funds from schools that do not enforce gender-discrimination laws. The move signals a shift in the way the government approaches bullying: as a form of harassment, subject to the nation's civil-rights statutes, rather than an unfortunate aspect of growing up.
The Department of Education will tell schools, from elementary to university level, that they must establish plans to tackle discrimination in the wake of a bullying incident -- or face losing federal aid, according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg's Jeffrey Young quotes Kristen Amundson, former chairwoman of the Fairfax County, Virginia, school board, who said, "It's certainly unprecedented as far as I can remember."
Picking up on the It Gets Better Project launched by columnist and Seattle Stranger editor Dan Savage, celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Tim Gunn as well as (less famous but still noteworthy) Google employees recorded messages to encourage queer youth to stick out the bullying they face -- bullying that has in recent days led to a rash of suicides among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. President Obama recorded one, too.
The new Obama administration posture could be described as the It Will Get Better or Else Project. This strategy is the stick to match the carrot. If schools to continue to ignore intimidation, harassment and violence among students, the schools may themselves face the consequences.