Tyler Clementi Foundation's Annual Upstander Legacy Celebration End online and offline bullying at your school on #Day1.
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Welcome to the Tyler Clementi Foundation

  • Featured Post

    Brandon’s Story: Witness to Invaded Privacy Via Facebook

    Brandon's Story Image of Person Staring at Facebook
    I was a freshman in college in 2006, when 18-year-olds across the country were discovering that their MacBooks came with cameras. One of them was Anna, who lived in my dorm and decided to use hers to spy on her roommate.

    Anna’s roommate was shy and awkward; whenever I saw her, she was reading a book by herself in the dining hall. She became the butt of Anna and her friends’ jokes, which I occasionally overheard. I don’t know what compelled Anna to take it one step further – to record her roommate – but she did.

    To her grotesque delight, she ended up with a recording of her roommate masturbating. She posted it on Facebook, enabling privacy settings that meant only a small number of her hometown friends could see it. A friend of mine overheard her bragging about it. None of us ever saw the video, which fortunately never seemed to spread beyond Anna’s group of friends.

    Portrait of BrandonAt one point my friends and I discussed whether there was anything we could or should do about it. We ultimately decided that as much as we wanted Anna to be punished for what she did, it was best that her roommate never find out about it. As far as I know, she never did.
    A few years later, when I heard about Tyler Clementi, I couldn’t help but think of Anna and her roommate. I hope Anna knows how much pain she almost caused her roommate, and how lucky she is that her roommate never found out about it.

    Do you need information about cyberbullying? Find cyberbullying resources here to assist you or reach out to the Tyler Clementi Foundation directly for assistance.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Meet Upstanders Heather and Corey Christenson

    Portrait of Heather and Corey Christenson
    How do you know when you see bullying?
    Honestly, sometimes you don’t know when you’re seeing bullying. Speaking from the educator standpoint, kids are sneaky. They know how to do just enough without getting caught. The kids that are getting bullied are typically too embarrassed to say anything to anyone. We find out through the grapevine this is happening, and then we have to question the student to find out the truth.

    Sometimes to the passerby, bullying can look like two kids joking around; only one-sided. When bullying, names can be thrown, physical harm can be done, property damage can be done. It all depends on the bully.

    What do you find the most effective way to approach a bullying situation?
    I think it really depends on how well you know who you are dealing with. I have always had really good rapport with my students, so I have always been very straight forward with them. Whether I’ve spoken to the bully or the bullied, they’ve always reciprocated the straightforwardness and for the most part have been honest with us.

    Do you think bullies can change?
    Yes, I do.

    How would you describe your community/school when it comes to its response to diverse identities of students?
    Our school is very accepting of race, heritage and religious affiliation, but I think when it comes to the discussion of sexual identity the school community is more conservative.

    The Tyler Clementi Foundation believes in starting on #Day1 to set a precedent that bullying is not tolerated. As a teacher, how do you establish an environment of respect for diversity? How do students respond?

    Whether it be a diverse group or not, I have never looked at one group different from the other. There is one group, not separated groups. For both of us, our students are very close with us and they take these messages seriously.

    Simply, for every action there is a reaction. You treat people the way you want to be treated.

    Athletic instructor Heather Christenson with Color Guard teamWhat kind of differences do you observe between the way students treat diversity in athletic environments/situations than a standard classroom?
    Race and gender are still sources of prejudice that we continue to see. Men are more apt to act out where women are more verbal. In sports, the race stereotypes are more about jealousy or fear of physiological development in the athletic environment. For example, the idea that African-Americans run faster. With an increasing rate of poverty, we are hearing more and more stereotypes like rich kids are better in sports or are smarter.

    As a parent, what do you do to let your child (or children) know that it is ok to talk to you when they feel like they might be being bullied?
    We just tell them straight up. There is no sugar coating!!

    What steps would you take (or have you taken) once you hear from your child or another source that your child or another child might be being bullied?
    Stand up for yourself, and stand up for each other. If you see it, take care of it. If it’s you, take care of it. Don’t be afraid to tell somebody. Don’t be afraid to fight back.

    How would you say you stand up to bullying?
    Remember the person that is bullying is in a very low place in their life. They are bullying to get pleasure out of something that is lacking in their life.

    tcf-post1344-heather-christenson-400x300Heather Christenson is the Adapted Living Special Education Teacher at Pontiac Township High School in addition to her roles as Color Guard Instructor and member of C.A.P.T.A.I.N.S. (Coaches and Parents Teaming Against Inappropriate and Negative Situations). She has degrees in Physical Education, Health, and English from Western Illinois University as well as a Masters of Special Education from the University of Phoenix.

    Portrait of Corey ChristensonCorey Christenson is the Physical Education and Drivers Education Teacher at Pontiac Township High School. He is the Head Wrestling and Men’s Track and Field Coach as well as member of C.A.P.T.A.I.N.S. (Coaches and Parents Teaming Against Inappropriate and Negative Situations). He has degrees in Physical Education and Driver’s Education in addition to a Masters of Coaching Education from Ohio University.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Marci’s Story: Being Gay in the 70’s

    Marci Redmond
    Growing up in the ’70s and trying to figure out who you were was very hard. I knew I was gay when I was about 8 years old.

    When I was in the 4th grade, I had told someone I thought was a friend that I liked girls. She appeared not to care at the time, but the next day in school, I started getting the mean looks and people wouldn’t come near me. I finally figured out what happened when I started hearing, “You’re a butch. Stay away from me”. On my way home, two girls I attended school with jumped me while screaming, “Butch, dyke, and homo!”

    I know first-hand about bullying, and whatever I can do to help someone who has been bullied, or prevent bullying, I will do.

    Do you have a story to tell about bullying? Share your story with others, and together we will end bullying.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Meet Upstander Emily Sexton

    Portrait of Emily Sexton

    What does respect mean to you? 
    Respect is an interesting thing. There is a basic level of consideration that should be given to anyone by virtue of our mutual humanity. Then, there is the level of consideration of holding someone in high regard based on their actions. I think it is important for kids to understand both approaches and the duality that they can have compassion for someone whose actions are unappealing – whether it is understanding that someone who is bullying them may be coming from a place of being bullied or abused themselves or resisting the urge to participate in group ugliness against someone who doesn’t fit in.

    Why is the issue of bullying important to you?
    I was teased relentlessly throughout elementary school to the point where I started seriously contemplating suicide. In the 1980s, verbal bullying didn’t really count, which is something we realize now can be as harmful as traditional physical harassment. The internet has raised the stakes to a whole new level. Now bullies can hide behind anonymisers and never even face the person that they are attacking. As a parent, it is hard not to obsess over what will happen as my kids participate more online particularly, and even at school, “Mean Girl” behavior starts in Kindergarten, even preschool, and it’s not limited to girls. It’s also not something limited to kids.

    How do you know when you see bullying? 
    One of the hardest things to help kids understand is the difference between someone being “just” mean and bullying. It’s like the line between tattling and telling a teacher something that they need to know. Sometimes, it’s obvious. Anything involving physical harassment or violence or threats of harm is pretty clear cut. It’s that teasing piece that is difficult. I think the biggest marker of that sort of bullying is whether it is targeted and persistent. All kids can have their terrible moments. It is important to distinguish between “Cassidy called me a mean name today at recess,” and “Cassidy calls me mean names every recess.” One might be a kid being a jerk because they are having a bad day while the other is a pattern of behavior.

    As parents, we also have to be willing to gently question our kids’ perspective. We’ve had the scenario where one of my kids reports that certain other kids are regularly calling them certain names and are generally mean to them. Then, when we go to talk to the teacher and ask who our child plays with, the first kids named are the ones we were going to bring up as engaging in bullying behavior. Certainly, both can be true, but it is important to be willing to see multiple sides as parents while still advocating for our kids. Parents have to be willing to see the possible negatives in their own kids and even be willing to accept that their kids might actually be one of the bullies in some situations.

    Have you ever been bullied or felt like you were in a hostile space directed at you? If so, could you share what happened?
    Oh yes. I was a weird smart kid who didn’t really get how to hide it in a time where there was no cultural appreciation of geekdom or sexual fluidity. I’ve actually written about the experience, the resulting suicidal behavior, and the after effects here. As I got older, it was difficult coming to terms with my sexuality because I didn’t really have a name for being attracted to both boys and girls. I didn’t feel like I really fit in anywhere.

    As a parent, what do you do to let your children know that it is ok to talk to you when they feel like they might be being bullied?
    I think that this is part of letting your kids know that they can talk to you about anything. We try to have open conversations about anything they are concerned about or have questions about. The biggest mistake I think parents make – and I confess to having occasional issues with it, too – is to try to downplay when our kids tell us about issues in an effort to toughen them up a bit or to “help” them feel better about the situation. In reality, downplaying it is an adult response that helps adults feel better, but that can also lead us to mistrust our instincts about people and situations—something kids are just learning to do. The worst thing I could hear as a child was and adult say, “Just ignore them,” or “It’s no big deal.”

    I understand better as an adult where that impulse comes from: a combination of not knowing what else to say and having more perspective. It feels so dismissive as a kid, like they are the problem or deserve it because they are unable to control their own urge to react. I spent most of my childhood thinking that it was my fault that I was teased because I did react, and I did cry, and I internalized that idea that if only I wouldn’t give the bullies the satisfaction of getting a response, everything would be okay. Now, I recognize that as the victim blaming that it is. I also understand how much the adults around me wanted to help but didn’t know how.

    Portrait of Emily Sexton

    What steps have you taken once you hear from your child or another source that your child or another child might be being bullied?
    It depends on the situation, but generally speaking, after talking to my children and learning as much as I can, I always want to talk to another adult in charge. Like I mentioned in my previous example about the other students teasing my daughter, teachers and other adults don’t always realize what is happening because kids are good at hiding their bad behavior. We have had some good experiences with teachers and counselors who have been very skilled at discussing inclusion and respective differences without singling out targeted kids, and we’ve had some not so good experiences. It is important for kids to know that you have their back.

    Religion plays such a significant role in American life. Do you feel communities should be discussing inclusion and collaboration of different faith identities in addition to the identities of people who do not participate in religious life?
    I am conflicted about this. I know that there are wonderful inclusive congregations that are truly welcoming. However, as I experienced “inclusiveness” as a child who was raised in a home without religion, interfaith activities can be thinly veiled conversion endeavors which can start to feel like bullying in themselves. I find myself highly suspect of teen motivational speakers for that reason. Organized religion is an inexorable part of American life, but religion can also be part and parcel of bullying. I hear all the time about kids 6, 7 years old being bullied by other kids telling them they are evil and going to hell, which is something that hasn’t changed since my childhood. That can be some of the hardest conversations for parents who do not practice a dominant religion, since in some areas, school officials are not open to addressing this sort of bullying because the principal and teachers may be part of the congregation where the bullying kids affirm these messages.

    I guess I would like to see religious communities make it clear that religion-based bullying is not acceptable within their communities as well as in the world at large. Freedom of religion is for everyone, including those who exercise the right not to believe or to participate in less popular faiths. Bullying on the basis of religion should never be acceptable, but that message needs to come from religious leaders, not secular families who are just trying to live their lives.

    What do you think people should be doing to create safe space for people of diverse or non-faith? 
    I can mostly speak to non-faith. It is difficult to build a community around the absence of something. However, there is a vibrant community of non-believer parents on Facebook where like-minded individuals provide support without spiritual intrusion. It is nice to have places to talk about the bullying that our kids encounter without religion being an issue. The network that I blog for is expressly skeptical, and we try to provide evidence-based commentary on these issues. Facebook groups for school PTAs and the like are also becoming more common which gives parents a way to connect around their local schools in ways they might not have time to in person.

    I would like to see more expressly humanist, non-denominational, non-religious support, but that can be hard for many of the reasons I have already stated. I am fortunate to live in a very diverse area where there are a lot of options outside of faith-based organizations. Not every town has those kinds of options. For folks of faith in progressive congregations—which I absolutely know exist—keep reaching out and making it clear that your doors are open without judgement. It’s important that people of faith not be offended when skeptics are, indeed, skeptical. For the most part, parents and kids are in this together, and ultimately, we want similar things for our kids even if we use different language.

    Can you tell us about a time when a friend (or stranger) helped support you when others were being unkind? 
    Throughout my childhood, there were adults who made space for me—great school counselors who always found the time to talk, the year book adviser who made room for a third-grader looking for a place to land, the summer school organizer who encouraged me to get involved with the program during the year and to help out. Sometimes, the best thing adults can do is to find ways to just let kids in and be themselves for a while.

    If you could say one thing to anyone who is the victim of bullying, what woulust don’td it be?
    You matter. You are heard. You are loved.

    Emily Sexton is a blogger, poet, wannabe novelist, lawyer, mother, and can do it all if only there were more hours in the day. After a childhood in central Illinois, she moved east for law school and has lived in the inner DC suburbs since 1999. She often can be found nursing a beverage and reading something.  Follow her on Twitter: @emandink.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Mean Kids Suck

    Billy receiving yellow belt in Karate

    In 5th grade, Billy would come home after school and sit in his big comfy chair covered under a blanket, not wanting to talk to anyone. His grades fell. And my bouncy, free loving goofy child was replaced with a blob who was going through the motions of the day. Of course he refused to tell us what was going on. Luckily his best friend’s mom filled me in. Billy was being bullied.

    It continued into 6th grade. Kids would make him uncomfortable, and he would try to hide it from me. Only once did it turn physical. Luckily another kid got help before anything happened, but someone started a rumor that Billy won.

    Billy was always “confident” in who he is. He doesn’t care if his clothes match or his hair is sticking straight up. He loves to crack really bad (I mean great) jokes and his imagination would give JK Rawlings some competition. But something changed in him when the other kids began ganging up on him.

    I’d always thought about Karate, or some type of martial arts. But between piano, Hebrew School, and theatre, the thought of adding something else into the mix didn’t seem like a good idea. Billy loves his computer time and I didn’t want to take that away. But something needed to happen. The night it got physical I drove him down to the ATA studio. He was not happy. “Let’s just go see what it is,” I said. We watched the class and Billy was ready to leave.

    To Billy’s tears of frustration and reluctance, I signed him up. “Just four lessons,” I said. Turns out, you sign them up for 6 weeks, 2 times a week. I told him if he hated it after, he could quit.

    The first class, he was so mad at me. But as he worked, I saw something stir in him. He felt in control. He was able to be physical without getting in trouble. He began to learn to control his body and with it came his mind. “Mom, I don’t want to tell you I enjoyed it because I don’t want you to do the ‘told you so,’” he told me after class. “But I’ve set a goal to get my Camo belt.”

    Something happened after that. At school, the kids picked on him less and less, and others kids started standing up for him.

    In Tao Kwan Do, he went from a white belt with no stripes, to an Orange, then a Yellow and recently achieved his Camo! He’s participated in two competitions and placed 2nd and 3rd. And he’s started trying things he was afraid to do. Kids still try to pick on him, but he’s more confident.

    The best advice I can share is build your child up. Help them find who they are and to embrace that. Teach them to stand up for other kids and always be the kid they hoped would have been there for them. Now off to hug a child.

    Debbie LaCroix is a children’s book author and seller & mom to Alex and Billy. You can visit her online at www.debbielacroix.com or www.goreadtoday.com.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Perils of Mob Shaming: Clementi’s Speak Out

    This week PBS Thirteen aired its latest episode of MetroFocus, “Mob Shaming and Its Deadly Consequences.” Jane and James Clementi sat down tpbs interviewo talk with Jack Ford about the experiences of their son and brother Tyler and the emotional toll of cyber-bullying. Check out the full interview here!

    Mob shaming is not a new phenomena. It’s formal definition is “a large group or crowd of people who are angry or difficult to control.” We have seen this side of humanity expressed throughout history, from ancient societies to the present day. With the invention of the internet and social media, today’s mob lashes out in the form of online cruelty that is often anonymous and yet deeply personal for the target. Most of us cannot imagine what it would be like to be the victim of such online cruelty. For Tyler Clementi this was a reality.

    We believe that the best way to change the culture of mob shaming and online harassment is to prevent bullying before it happens. Our Foundation’s programs are built on this goal of prevention. To create a culture of kindness and inclusion in your school, workplace or sports team today, check out our #Day1 Campaign! Being an Upstander starts with you.



  • Featured Post

    A Message About the Orlando Tragedy

    tcf-news-orlando-tragedy_843x843“My heart simply breaks for the victims and their families. When will people open their eyes and see the horrific impact of their misguided teachings of bias, discrimination and hate that devalues the human spirit, whether it is in the dramatic physical actions of taking another life or in the slow and steady emotional toil of ongoing bullying. Love will win and these outrageous acts of evil will stop.”

    Jane Clementi, Founder and Board Member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, June 13, 2016

  • Featured Post

    New Article in Wall Street Journal Unveils Latest Cyber-Bullying Info

    New Article in Wall Street Journal Unveils Latest Cyber-Bullying Info

    The Wall Street Journal, in a fantastic new piece from Leslie Gore, unveiled the latest cyberbullying research, which comes out of a poll of 1,000 NYC-area teens and parents (unrelated to each other). The results of the study demonstrate the considerable need for anti-bullying work in the forms of not only awareness, but hands-on preventative measures such as the #Day1 Campaign. We now that about half off all youth identify as victims of cyber-bullying, showing that the problem is more rampant than many have thought.

    This data shows that online bullying and harassment is a tremendous problem in our youth culture. Nearly half of all teens say they have been bullied online. 43% of teens say they would be “terrified” if their parents read their texts. 8 in 10 know someone who has bee the victim of cyberbullying. The latest polling results show the need for the preventative work of the Tyler Clementi Foundation and our programs such as #Day1 and the Tyler Clementi Institute for Cyber Safety at New York Law School. Check it out here.
    See more Bullying Statistics.

  • Featured Post

    Did You Know That Tyler Clementi was African American?

    Ama Karikari-Yawson Esq., Author of Sunne's Gift and Founder of Milestales Publishing and Education Consulting

    The two men on motor cycles were on either side of our Toyota revving their engines. My mother drove further up, then the men drove further up.  My mother drove up again. The men followed and revved  their engines again.  “Nigger bitches” the one on my  side said in a low tone. They sped off. Why on earth did they do that?  My mom and I were just on our way to Costco to pick up our year’s worth of toilet paper like everybody else.  It was broad daylight 1998 in New York, not 1928 in Alabama. Why us? Why me?

    I never met Tyler Clementi, but as a black woman, I can relate to his experience.  I am sure that Tyler also asked himself “why me?”.  “Why am I the subject of homophobic vitriol.  Why are people laughing at me because of who and how I choose to love? Why am I being bullied?”

    Black History Month has ended, but please remember that we are all African-Americans being spat on at lunch counters in 1960, regardless of our skin tones.  We are all homosexuals being attacked with baseball bats in Central Park in 1978, regardless of our sexual orientations.  We are all German jews in 1940 being walked to gas chambers, regardless of our religions.  We are all Marcelo Lucero being beaten to death in Suffolk County in 2008 for being Latino, regardless of our nationalities.  We are all Japanese Americans being relocated to internment camps in 1942, regardless of our ancestral origin. We are all wheel chair bound and  struggling to get from place to place in 1985, regardless of our ability to walk.  We are all women and girls being raped every 107 seconds, regardless of our genitalia.

    Why are we all of those people?  We are effectually the same because we all know how it feels to be bullied.  All bullying, whether attributed to race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, nationality, or physical ability, has the same root, insecurity manifesting as evil personified.  All bullying has the same modus operandi, the creation of dehumanizing smear campaigns about the target group.  All bullying has the same fuel, silent accomplices who do nothing because they think that someone else is being attacked.

    Moreover, bullying spreads like a cancer moving to and from communities of color to gay communities to immigrant communities, and so forth and so on, if left untreated.  This is why Martin Luther King told us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

    But thankfully, all bullying also has the same solution, creating a culture of radical self-love, universal acceptance, and appreciation of difference. We can create that culture!

    Please see my TEDx talk on this very topic.

    About the Author

    Ama Karikari-Yawson, Esq., is the author of Sunne’s Gift and Founder of Milestales Publishing and Education Consulting

  • Featured Post

    #Day1 Goes International

    #Day1 Goes International

    The Tyler Clementi Foundation’s #Day1 Campaign was created around the idea that no one should be made to feel as though they are worth less than the community around them, regardless of how they look, who they love, or where they’re from. That is why it is it just as important to see #Day1 succeed internationally as well as in our own nation’s schools and workplaces. Everyone around the world deserves to feel respected and safe. However, some countries have norms and even laws that foster bullying and hatred. But we must stay true to the goals for #Day1 while being empathic to those who are in very challenging situations.

    In some countries, there are anti-LGBT propaganda laws that directly conflict with the goals and message of the campaign. These laws, claiming to protect children, do harm rather than good as they isolate vulnerable LGBT people and help foster stigmas against them. While these laws make their respective countries prime candidates for the #Day1 program, it also means that promoting the campaign in these countries could be dangerous for people who believe in our campaign but would be putting their lives and freedom at risk by speaking up. In countries like Nigeria, Russia and Pakistan, simply mentioning that anti-LGBT bullying is wrong, could result in prosecution or physical violence. We have learned that #Day1 proponents in Nigeria and Pakistan would like to honor the #Day1 idea while making a statement that is less specific but still not specific of any group. While we respect the political reality in these countries and the risks our leaders are taking, we have asked them to not call a censored version of our campaign, “#Day1.” It isn’t #Day1 unless it addresses a main form of bullying! Instead, we encourage them to make their own statements in ways that are as inclusive as possible.

    If I lived in a country where the laws and culture were such that speaking up about LGBT issues could leave me in jail for many years and put me at a high risk of immediate death, I want to believe that I would speak up anyway. But to be really honest, I’m glad that I don’t have to be tested in this way. I want to honor people who take a more gradual approach while we at the Tyler Clementi Foundation stay true to our core values.

    Help us get #Day1 (an inclusive#Day1) into schools, workplaces and teams around the world. Creating change where it is safer can begin to lead to change in places where it is more dangerous.

    Go here to download the declaration and pledge.

    You can also consider donating to#Day1 here.

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