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Obamas Hold White House Conference on Bullying Prevention

The Obamas Dispel Myth That Bullying Is a Rite of Passage

We all recall being picked on at some point in our youth, but memories of hurt feelings differ from an experience of systematic bullying. Today, the Obamas are trying to dispel the myth that bullying is a rite of passage. Holding the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, a daylong summit bringing together students, parents, teachers, and the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, President Obama explained its mission: "If there's one goal of this conference, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not."

Obama got some laughter when he mentioned being teased for his big ears and funny name, but cautioned the audience to not chalk the taunting up to the idea that "kids will be kids." Michelle Obama offered some real solutions in her opening remarks. She called on parents to listen to their children, to get involved with their school activities so they're in tune with what's going on. She also said adults should set an example with their own behavior.

Today there's an even greater risk that teasing can escalate to cyberbullying, which includes spying, digital disrespect, and online cruelty. Most of us didn't face the emerging risks associated with technology, but I'm sure many confronted bullying in some way. Since Obama shared his bullying experience, I'm curious: what was yours?

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Pistil Pistil 5 years
There were these two girls in my 9th grade English class. They were the alpha bitches. They really had it in for this one girl. I'm not sure why, there was no reason for it. But they were relentless in teasing her about her hair, throwing crap at her, and all right in the middle of class. They singled me out a couple of times, kicking the back of my desk. One of the girls was describing another girl to someone as "kind of pretty, not ugly, not like her", gesturing toward me. And this was always in class. In the middle of a lesson. The teacher rarely stepped in, I think because he was actually afraid of them and saying anything would just provoke them further. Sometimes I regret not standing up to them, but I would have been making myself a huge target, and I know I wouldn't have had any peer support. They eventually dropped out, but for years afterward I was always afraid I'd run into them in the halls or washrooms. This behavior would be unacceptable from an adult, why should kids get away with it?
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 5 years
Wow, I got it bad. In 5th grade all the boys teased me and had this stupid nickname for me, but one took it way too far, he would kick me til my shins were covered in bruises, I mean I was in pain every day when I came home. I finally pulled together the courage to tell the teacher, I said "Mike kicks me and it hurts and he teases me and calls me *nickname*." My teacher looked at me and said "He calls you *nickname*?" Like it was ridiculous for me to be bothered by that, he completely ignored the assault that was going on. A few weeks later the same boy tied my shoelaces together while we were standing in line, I tripped and fell on my face and broke my shoelaces. The teacher came running over all concerned, I couldn't even look him in the face I was so hurt and humiliated. I told him I was fine. That was the beginning of many years of self-hatred and suicidal depression for me. I got it in highschool too, the kids would call me names and shoot spitballs in my hair- one of my teachers noticed them doing it once and laughed. When I talked to the counselor about it he asked, "What do you want me to do?" And I remember thinking, I want you to make it stop. Just one more blow to my already low self-esteem. High school is sick. You put a bunch of kids trying to define themselves as better than their peers together, add in some teachers who had such fun teasing the kids in school that they got jobs as teachers just to stay in that environment- it's torture. Natalie I'm just as glad as you that it's being taken seriously.
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 5 years
ahhh, bullying. Growing up in Israel I've actually never been bullied to my memory, I pretty much got along with everyone. But moving to Canada at age 11, throughout middle school I was teased for my 'odd' accent, for my clothes, for my hair, everything! I still remember some guy in grade 8, yelling out, during a presentation I was making "Could you repeat that in English?!" referring to how strong my accent was. I remember how painful it was, and I would never wish it upon my worst enemy. People who think this is just kids being kids has probably never experienced it... I'm really glad it's being taken seriously these days.
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