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.
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!