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Obama: Bullying should not be accepted

March 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The White House shined a national spotlight on bullying Thursday. President Barack Obama said he endured bullying in school because of his large ears and funny name.

The numbers are staggering. One third of the nation's students, that's 13 million children, have been bullied.

The president and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted more than 150 students, parents and teachers who met with the administration to talk about how to make schools and communities safer from bullying.

"If there's one goal of this conference, it is to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up," said President Obama.

At the start of this school year there were a number of teen suicides from bullying in high school and college.

"The kids are the ones that can stop the bullying," said Kirk Smalley, who lost his son to bullying. "Our world is ready for a change. And our babies are dying for it."

Before the conference started, the Obamas met parents and children who have suffered from the taunting, including Jacqui Knight, a mother from Oklahoma.

"My daughter was bullied. Along with another child," said Knight.

Experts said young people who are bullied are more likely to have trouble in school and abuse drugs and alcohol. The president puts bullying on his education agenda, warning it puts the nation at risk of falling behind other countries in academics.

As parents of two young girls, the Obamas said they feel heartbreak for any child who doesn't feel safe leaving for school but won't tell their parents.

"As parents, Barack and I also know that sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, it's really hard for parents to know what's going on in our kids' lives," said the first lady.

The Obamas are also reaching out directly on Facebook with a new PSA. The message, posted on the website stopbullying.gov, urges parents and teachers to create a support system for their children and students.