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Speaking Topics

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy: In this timely talk, Emily Bazelon cuts to the beating heart of an increasingly important topic: bullying. She guides audiences on a sweeping, thoughtful, and empathetic journey through the social and legal ramifications, and answers key questions: Which school programs work best to combat bullying? How effective are the laws at protecting our children from this trauma? What do recent high-profile cases of bullying tell us about how the issue has change over the years?  How are people using new technologies—mobile phones, social media, texting—to both spread and combat bullying? Most importantly: is bullying happening to the degree that media reports suggest? Insightful and engaging, Bazelon empowers parents, educators and students with the tools to stop bullying, both in the classroom and online. This powerful keynote is a reminder of all that we can—and must—do to help our children succeed in any environment.

Bullying and Blame in the Age of Facebook: Social networking and texting have given kids new opportunities to be mean to each other—just as a series of teen suicides have been blamed on bullying. But does it really make sense to blame bullying on the Internet and social media—or to blame bullying for teen suicide? And what about the get-tough laws some states are passing to criminalize bullying—are they the best way to address this problem? Bullying is a serious issue worthy of attention. But to do that well, we have to dispel prevalent myths have often crowd out larger truths.

Bullying and the Law: Forty-nine states now have laws that address the problem (all but Montana). But the laws are the opposite of uniform. Some states leave developing policies on bullying to individual school districts. Others direct schools to suspend and expel known bullies. Some tell schools to address online harassment; others leave that problem to the police. The laws don’t even share a universal definition of bullying. Meanwhile, courts are splitting over whether schools have the authority to discipline students for what they post online, even if it’s cruel and directed toward another student, because it is off-campus speech. At the same time, some legislators feel under pressure to make bullying criminal—and even send kids to prison for it. Which are the smart legal strategies states are adopting and which are the misguided ones? What do the recent court decisions mean for parents and schools?

Solutions for Schools: Though bullying has increasingly moved to the Internet, kids still torment each other in the hallways at school. In fact, in person and online bullying usually go together. How does the school environment influence the level of aggressive behavior in the classroom and on the playground? How can schools best combat bullying? Which programs have proven most effective? What are the obstacles to making them work? And what legal challenges do schools face based on recent state laws and court decisions?

Girls, Boys, and Gender Bending: How does bullying differ by gender, and in what ways does it especially impact gay kids? The type of bully who gets the most attention these days is the Mean Girl, but in truth boys still bully more often than girls. They tend to bully other boys and girls, whereas girls usually bully other girls. Which prevention techniques help most with boys, and which ones with girls? What should parents of either sex particularly look out for? Often issues of sexuality and, for boys, masculinity, come into play by middle school. This leaves LGBT and questioning kids particularly vulnerable. What are the best buffers for gay kids negotiating these boundaries, and how can schools and parents help them to help themselves?

(And for fun, here’s a clip of me trying to keep up with Stephen Colbert: )

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