Better Than Bullying: Hillary Clinton’s Plan To Create Safer Schools for Our Kids

Our country is great because the American people are good. We believe in respecting one another and lifting each other up. We strive to celebrate diversity and work together to overcome our disagreements. We promise that no matter who you are, where you come from, how you pray, or who you love—you have a place in America.

But we still have work to do to make that promise real for our kids. Children with disabilities are mocked for their perceived differences. LGBT and Muslim students are targeted because of who they are or how they pray. Latino and immigrant children turn on the television and are told they don’t belong. When bias influences our children and manifests itself in the form of bullying, we have to act. We must make our classrooms and playgrounds inclusive spaces to learn and ensure the Internet is a safer place to explore new ideas. We must teach our kids the value of kindness and provide them the social and emotional skills they need to develop healthy relationships. And we must address bullying for what it is: an urgent crisis that contributes to poor academic performance, increased incidence of depression, and in some extreme cases, suicide.

Hillary Clinton believes that no child should face bullying or harassment, and children who do engage in bullying should receive supports to help them change their behavior. That’s why, as president, Clinton will launch “Better Than Bullying,” an initiative to provide $500 million in new funding to states that develop comprehensive anti-bullying plans. Together with Clinton’s $2 billion commitment to provide schools the resources they need to end the school-to-prison pipeline, this new investment will empower communities to improve school climate and support our kids.

States will have flexibility in tailoring anti-bullying plans to their local communities, in keeping with the following national priorities:

  • Develop comprehensive anti-bullying laws and policies. Comprehensive anti-bullying laws have been found to reduce bullying by more than 20 percent. But not enough states have such laws. To be eligible for funding, states must adopt comprehensive anti-bullying laws or policies that: (1) Clearly describe prohibited behaviors, including verbal abuse and cyberbullying; (2) Include grievance procedures for students, parents and educators to address incidents; and (3) Explicitly prohibit bullying on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion.
  • Expand behavioral health prevention and intervention programming. We must stop bullying before it starts. That means investing in evidence-based behavioral health programs that teach young people to control their impulses, recognize the feelings of others, and manage stress and anxiety. This learning should also happen outside the classroom with programming that engages parents and communities.
  • Make the Internet a safer space for kids by addressing cyberbullying. While the Internet is essential to helping students learn and communicate, cyberbullying has become a harmful extension of bullying in the classroom. The ease with which demeaning and damaging content can be posted on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter make it difficult for our kids to ever really escape bullying. We need to invest in innovative solutions that allow students, parents, educators, and other adults to make the Internet safer, while respecting First Amendment rights.
  • Support educators working to improve school climate. Every adult in a school – including teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, media specialists, and clerical, custodial, and school transportation staff – must work together to build a safe and healthy school culture for themselves and their students. That means providing resources to help prepare educators to effectively prevent, recognize, and respond to bullying. It also means investing in specialized support staff who are trained in preventing and addressing the underlying causes of bullying.
  • Provide support for students impacted by bullying and abuse. Students who experience bullying, witness bullying, and even those who bully others, are at an increased risk for negative health and academic outcomes. We must ensure these students and their families receive the treatment and care that they need and deserve, including access to meaningful mental health services, substance use treatment, in-school supports, and connections to community support services beyond the school building.

States that put forward anti-bullying plans will be eligible to receive $4 of federal support for every $1 of new resources they commit to making progress on these goals. Examples of policy interventions and investments states can pursue include:

  • Expanding social and emotional learning programs. To prevent bullying and harassment we need to help children develop their social and emotional skills and provide targeted programming to those in need of additional support. Research shows that effective behavioral support programs can improve academic performance, reduce bullying, and reduce student involvement in the criminal justice system. For example, the RULER program helps students recognize, understand, label, express and regulate their emotions. Studies show that students using RULER perform better academically, experience less anxiety and depression, and are less likely to bully other students. Under Clinton’s leadership, the Department of Education will work hand-in-hand with states to leverage Title I resources to further expand behavioral interventions supported by this initiative. Clinton will ensure states and districts also receive support from the Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports established by the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.
  • Investing in specialized instructional support personnel. Specialized instructional support personnel – including guidance counselors, social workers, school nurses, and school psychologists – are an important resource for our students and our teachers. With the help of these professionals, educators can address and prevent bullying, create safer classroom learning environments, and better connect students and families with the social and academic resources they need.
  • Embedding training on bullying and classroom climate in educator and school leader preparation. We need to help educators and all school employees prepare to effectively prevent and respond to bullying in a way that maintains a productive learning environment and keeps students engaged. States can use Better Than Bullying funding in combination with resources available under Titles II-A and IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act to ensure that school climate and restorative justice training are embedded in peer mentoring programs, centers for induction, and other professional development and career path­way initiatives for educators.
  • Implementing suicide prevention and mental health programs in high schools. In 2013, a survey of high school students revealed that 17 percent considered attempting suicide in the prior year. Research has shown a link between bullying and suicide, and we need to respond by providing support to students that have experienced bullying and those that have bullied others. For example, it is critical that school districts emphasize mental health education so that school leaders, teachers, paraprofessionals, and specialized instructional support personnel are aware of the warning signs and risk factors of mental illness and how to address them. The Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, released by four leading mental health organizations, includes concrete recommendations that school districts can adopt.
  • Investing in school-based cyberbullying interventions and parent education. Studies suggest that one out of every four teens has experienced cyberbullying and one out of every six teens has bullied others. While this bullying may largely occur during non-school hours, it is often an extension of bullying that takes place in our schools. States can use “Better Than Bullying” funding to support cyberbullying programming for students in the classroom and to provide parents with the tools and resources necessary to address cyberbulling at home. For example, Common Sense Education’s Cyberbullying Prevention Toolkit, developed in partnership with No Bully, provides lesson plans for teachers, interactive digital learning games for students, and materials for family education. In Finland, the program KiVa utilizes role-playing exercises and online games to show students how to prevent bullying. When bullying cases emerge, the KiVa program directs additional program to the students involved, as well as to several classmates who are challenged to support the victim. An analysis of the program found it resulted in a 46 percent reduction in “victimization” and 61 percent reduction in “bullying others” in only nine months.
  • Making school climate a priority in implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA allows states to include school climate and safety as one indicator of student success in their statewide accountability systems. If implemented correctly, this can provide schools, teachers, and parents with a more holistic view of student success. States can use Better Than Bullying funding and leverage existing ESSA resources to support the development of safe and healthy school climates.

Clinton will take additional federal actions to make progress on these goals, including:

  • Working to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Clinton will fight to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act to require that federally funded school districts adopt comprehensive codes of conduct that explicitly prohibit bullying on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion.
  • Incentivizing school districts to hire School Climate Support Teams. As part of her comprehensive plan to end the school-to-prison pipeline, Clinton will dramatically increase funding for School Climate Transformation Grants from $23 million in FY 2014 to $200 million annually and will include in the program an incentive for school districts to hire School Climate Support Teams for the first year of the grant. These teams – comprised of social workers, behavioral health specialists, and education practitioners – will help districts or schools accurately assess their own school climate; establish “early-warning systems” to identify and assist at-risk students; provide training and professional development to staff on intervention-based approaches to behavior; and secure federal and district funding for social and emotional learning interventions.


  • Requiring professional development programming supported by Title II and Title IV funding include training on classroom climate. The climate of a classroom is set by a teacher’s interactions with his or her students. Quality teacher preparation and continuing professional development and advancement opportunities for teachers and paraprofessionals are not only critical to a classroom’s academic success, they are also essential to its culture. That’s why Clinton will ensure that restorative justice and classroom climate training, including training on implicit bias and cultural competency, are embedded in professional development initiatives funded with Title II-A and Title IV-A ESSA resources. She will also ensure these concepts are included in higher-education-based teacher preparation programs supported by Title II-A of the Higher Education Act.
  • Ensuring equal access to education through vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws. The core mission of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is to ensure equal access to education through vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws. Clinton will ensure that OCR investigates incoming complaints and pursues proactive investigations of school districts failing to address hostile classroom environments. That includes enforcement of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. As Clinton has previously said, it also includes enforcing Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination as prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Creating a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan that is headed by the Surgeon General. As part of her comprehensive agenda on mental health, Clinton will move toward the goal of “Zero Suicide” that has been promoted by the Department of Health and Human Services. The initiative will encourage evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health programs in K-12 schools and provide $500 million in federal support for suicide p