Power Grid Blog
Bullying and Students with Disabilities
May 16, 2012 | Zach Baldwin
“My brother was bullied for years because he was “different.” Ultimately, he got beaten up when he was 12 and has lived with seizures ever since as a result of the beating. As if Asperger’s wasn’t enough.”--AAPD member, DC
Eighty-five percent of children with learning disabilities are bullied at school, with sixty percent of those children enduring physical attacks. Studies have shown that students with visible and non-visible disabilities are subject to more bullying than their peers.
For students with disabilities, faculty and staff often add to the problem. Students with disabilities are more likely to be restrained, secluded, suspended, and physically punished (in 19 states, corporal punishment in schools is legal) by school staff than other students.
We are all aware of the harmful effects bullying can have on a child – including low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health problems, including thoughts of suicide. Imagine when the adults who are supposed to keep you safe are also making school a hostile place.
All too often, people with disabilities are left out when we think about keeping schools safe for kids. Most recently, I’ve seen a lot of campaigning to stop bullying LGBT people, which is great. I come from a background in the LGBT community and have become much more active educating people about and advocating for LGBT issues since I came out, so I appreciate this campaign.
However, I can’t help but see the strong parallels between the LGBT community and the disability community. Both communities experience social exclusion, verbal abuse, and even physical assault. And for what? Every student is equal, with the same civil liberties and right to education as every other– something all of us are entitled to regardless of their identity.
As someone who is committed to civil rights for everyone, I find it unacceptable that so many different groups of people in our society had to prove that they deserve equal treatment. We’ve seen the woman’s rights movement for gender equality, the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality, we’re in the midst of the LGBT movement for sexual orientation and gender identity equality, and we’re also still fighting for equality in the disability movement. It makes no sense to address the rights of each group one-by-one, especially when something like bullying affects everyone, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or ability.
While there is still a lot of energy in the air about stopping bullying, I think it is essential to promote the message that people with disabilities are bullied just as much as everyone else and that it is not okay. AAPD, with the generous support of Comcast, has released a PSA campaign to stop bullying. Check it out and learn what you can do to help end bullying.