(Washington, D.C., June 5, 2013) Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), announced the launch of a groundbreaking new initiative of the RFK Center, RFK Project SEATBELT: a comprehensive set of evidence-based tools, developed in partnership with the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, to help schools, parents, and communities prevent bullying before it starts.
She was joined for the announcement by Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA17), American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi, and filmmaker and activist Lee Hirsch, whose award-winning documentary, BULLY, has surpassed its goal of screening to more than 1 million students. The announcement immediately followed a United States House of Representatives briefing on the re-launch of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus, hosted by Representative Honda, during which the group testified on new approaches to prevention.
“Bullying is a human rights issue, indeed it’s often the first human rights issue young people experience first-hand,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of the RFK Center. “In the world of human rights defenders, the rarest of all are leaders who stand up not only to tyrants, but to family, friends, and colleagues within their own communities on behalf of the rights of others. However, in our schools, that’s the type of courage we ask our children to show every day, to prevent bullying when they see peers being targeted. RFK Project SEATBELT inspires young people to find that courage and gives teachers, administrators, and parents tools they can use to help.”
RFK Project SEATBELT (Safe Environments Achieved Through Bullying prevention, Engagement, Leadership and Teaching respect; projectseatbelt.org) was designed by Deborah Temkin, who previously led the White House bullying prevention efforts at the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative takes the research of the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and turns those findings into accessible, evidence-based resources to prevent bullying. And the name SEATBELT, along with being an acronym, is a response to those who say bullying is an ingrained behavior that is unlikely to change, and a reference to the profound shift in social mores over the last few decades that has made putting on a seat belt in a car an automatic behavior, where once it was considered optional.
The initiative launched online this month at projectseatbelt.org and will be featured in an upcoming national television advertising campaign by the Chrysler Group, LLC., which was screened during the June 5 launch event.
"This initiative speaks to the power of what we can accomplish when we stand together to help educate and prevent bullying," said Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer, Chrysler Group LLC. "Chrysler Group, as the minivan leader in America, champions family health and safety. We support the RFK Center's anti-bullying efforts and the mission to help bring awareness of this important issue to our communities."
RFK Project SEATBELT promotes the use of the RFK Center’s human rights education program, RFK Speak Truth To Power, which is currently taught to more than 1 million students a year from Cambodia to California and empowers youth to become the agents of change in their environments and beyond.
Just prior to the press conference, Representative Mike Honda announced the relaunch of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus at a briefing of the 113th Congress.
“Since launching last session, the Anti-Bullying Caucus has helped shine a light on bullying in the United States and the long-term impacts it has on young people who experience, witness, or perpetrate it,” said Representative Honda, “To truly make a difference, we need to explore ways to prevent bullying before it takes hold of a school or community, and we are delighted to highlight the groundbreaking steps being taken by the RFK Center and the Bully Project to achieve these goals.”
“We have to put ‘prevention’ back in ‘bullying prevention,’” said Temkin. “RFK Project SEATBELT is unique in that its primary aim is to help parents, educators, and communities create environments where bullying is less likely to occur. With more than 1 in 3 students bullied each year, and 3 in 4 students witnessing bullying on a regular basis, we must recognize that being bullied, bullying others, and witnessing bullying are all linked to negative outcomes.”
Kennedy was joined by Lee Hirsch who announced his film’s 1 Million Kids campaign successfully having surpassed its goal of reaching one million students globally. BULLY and accompanying educational programs has now been screened or committed to be screened for approximately 1,800,000 students — a dream many thought was impossible just year ago. Footage documenting The Bully Project movement was screened during the event, with Hirsch highlighting the Bully Project’s new Educator’s Toolkit to assist schools in meaningful and effective bullying prevention.
“We are thrilled to have surpassed one million students in our efforts to start conversations about the need for bullying prevention,” said BULLY director and producer Lee Hirsch. “But, simply talking about bullying is not enough. After thousands of BULLY screenings and trainings across the country we know that tools like our Educator's Toolkit and RFK Project SEATBELT are keys to creating safer environments for all students.”