Today marks the official release of a groundbreaking report from AbilityPath.org about bullying among children with special needs called “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes.” This important report demonstrates how bullying is a silent epidemic in schools across the country.  If it isn’t enough that a quarter of all school-aged kids are bullied, nearly 60 percent of students with disabilities experience this treatment in their schools.

I joined AbilityPath’s CEO, Sheryl Young, today in launching their report, along with self-advocate and “Glee” star, Lauren Potter, her mother Robin Sinkhorn, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, and my brother, Anthony Shriver, the Founder and Chairman of Best Buddies International.

Congresswoman Speier described the report as a “heartbreaking wake-up call” and I can only echo her concerns about the number of children–85 percent—who witness bullying in some form (verbal, physical or emotional) and do nothing.  Superintendent Torlakson spoke to our responsibility as educators, as parents, and as citizens when he said that “zero tolerance should be the goal.”

The biggest star of the day however, was undoubtedly Lauren Potter, who also co-authored a poignant op-ed in today’s Huffington Post.   Lauren explained to us that “doing nothing wasn’t an option” (the title of her article today) and shared her own experience of being bullied in school by kids who used to follow and taunt her at school.  She was able to “find her voice” and eventually asserted to them that it was “time to grow up.” As she says in her article, “No act is too small, too simple or can happen too soon. The power of one must not be denied but the power of many can be even greater.”

I am proud to say that a civil rights movement is underway, led by self-advocates like Lauren and other young people, to put an end to hurtful and abusive language and actions in schools.  You can join this movement right now.  The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign (www.r-word.org) invites you to take a pledge to end to stop saying the r-word and challenge your friends and family to do the same.  Share with them why it’s important to you.  Tell them about Lauren and why it’s important to her.


Editor’s notes:

Read the full report, “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes”

Watch CNN’s American Morning on Thursday, February 17 from 6am to 9am EST to see Tim, Lauren and Sheryl discuss this important report.  (UPDATE: Watch the clip from this segment)

Watch Lauren Potter, actress and self-advocate, below!

8 thoughts on “The Truth about Special Needs Bullying

  1. Myth 1: Bullies Come From Violent – Lower Class Families, Myth 2: Children Are Victims Of Bullying Because Schools Fail To Protect Them, Myth 3: Female Bullies Tease But Rarely Fight Like Male Bullies

    FREE E Book “3 Myths About Bullying” http://Profilingyourlife.com/

  2. I’m so glad this report came out! My special needs 10-yr-old child has been tormented at his school since kindergarten. I have documentation dating back to 2006 begging his school for help, for safeguards, for anything, yet my son was consistently put in contact with his tormentors. In December, my son was finally able to verbalize that the bullying and harassment had taken a horrific turn into sexual assault by four schoolmates, two of whom I’ve complained about for years! I immediately took him to the hospital and called the police. In early January, the detective assigned to the case (who never once bothered to meet me or my husband), “inactivated” the case. My child was able to identify his abusers and the abuse itself during a forensic interview. The abuse had been ongoing throughout 4th grade and even as far back as 3rd grade. But according to the detective, it didn’t matter. “All it amounted to was bullying in the state of Texas.” He refused to accept Outcry statements. Last week, I had to request our case be forwarded to the county attorneys office because the police department were not going to do it. At school, the perpetrators were verbally repripanded and their parents notified. No expulsions. My son, however, has been withdrawn from school since 12/15/10 due to the unsafe environment. He’s now under a doctor’s supervision and for the 1st time ever, on three psych medications for severe anxiety and night terrors. My son shreds his underwear with his bare hands…all of them. The seargant (detective’s boss) told me nothing could be done to the perpetrators because they were ten. So my question is, where’s the justice for my son?? What about the other special needs kids left at that school?? I’m so frustrated and MAD at the entire system right now! At least this report is out to validate what we’ve been going through because I really thought we were alone.

  3. I used to be employed in our local school system as a special needs school bus driver. I was required to transport mentaly challenged students as well as students with other disabilities. I was aware that there were istances of bullying at school, however I taught the riders to respect others for the way they were created. I must sat that there was little problems within the schools. That may not be the case now. One on one interaction between students helps. Also everyone working together is a step in the right direction. Schools need to accept a no tolerance policy on bulling as they do on other issuses.

  4. Thank you for the wake up on special needs bullying, I am the mom of an adorable 5 year old boy and of course I want to spread the word, let me know how and what I should do to help our special kids.

  5. I was lucky, my first year in a high school was spent working in a special needs class with a wonderful young teacher who was simply the “best” that I had ever worked with. My third year there I worked in a different group. My students where in crisis mode and ready to drop out or at the very least create chaos in the ranks and file. We were lucky as we were able to create a program putting the two groups together! It wasn’t always perfect but when it worked (most of the time) it was a thing of wonder! It taught us all about the redeeming quality of kindness,respect and empathy! Everybody learned something; maybe not something on a test but certainly something of the heart! I consider myself lucky to have been involved and humbled by the students who participated.

  6. This is a great video! I appreciate everybody’s movement to spread the word about bullying in schools, especially of special needs children. As a mother of a physically disabled child I am eager to see more from Abilitypath.org

    • KelliAnn Mead- received your insert Feb2013 addressed to me, asking for my donation of 250$ to EASTER SEALS! I’m sorry about your son’s birth defects…however, when YOU DONATE 250$ to the MARCH OF DIMES because I also had a son who was born prematurely (years ago)..THEN I will make the donation that you solicited me for!

  7. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Truth about Special Needs Bullying | The World of Special Olympics -- Topsy.com

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