Rosie O’Donnell, American Idol & Bullying in America

My four year old son, Tommy, was thrilled when he received a green
corduroy blazer for Christmas. He couldn’t wait to wear it to
school, because he said he would look just like his teacher, who
also wears a corduroy blazer. A few weeks ago, he proudly put
together an outfit and wore his blazer to school.

When my wife, Cheryl, picked Tommy up after school, he was visibly
upset. Tommy said, “Mom, I got shy about wearing my blazer.”
Apparently, another classmate made fun of Tommy for wearing his
blazer. It absolutely broke my heart.

A few nights later, I was watching American Idol. Paula Abdul,
Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson were judging various singers – and
then Kenneth Briggs took center stage. Because of societal
standards, it is likely that this young man had been ridiculed most
of his life. After an otherwise average performance, Simon
commented that Kenneth looked “a little odd… like one of those
creatures that live in the jungle with massive eyes… a bush

Jonathan Jayne was next. He too, has probably been the butt of many
a joke. Jonathan is a special Olympic athlete – his parents have
stated that he has mild autism. Before Jonathan even started
singing, Simon joked about Jonathan’s weight. Jonathan sang God
Bless America. After he left, Paula, Simon and Randy laughed
hysterically. Take a look for yourself. Watch this clip from the
Today Show’s coverage:

Rosie O’Donnell, on “The View“, drew the
connection. “Isn’t that what America thinks is entertainment? To
make fun of someone’s physical appearance. And then when they leave
the room, to laugh hysterically at them.”

We applaud Rosie for being outspoken and for making the connection
that when a show as wildly popular as American Idol regularly
ridicules people, not for their bad singing or dancing, but for
looking different, it shouldn’t be any wonder that we have problems
with kids teasing kids in school. Studies show that between 15-25%
of US students are frequently bullied while 15-20% report that they
bully others frequently (Nansel, Overpeck, et al, 2001; Melton ,
Limber et al, 1998; Geffner, et al, 2001). An estimated 160,000 US
students miss school each day due to fear of attack or intimidation
from peers (NEA, 1995). Victims of bullying may fear going to
school, using the bathroom and riding on the school bus (NEA1,
2003). And most shockingly, 25% of teachers see nothing wrong with
bullying or putdowns (Cohn & Canter, 2002).

No one deserves to be ridiculed for being different. Family Pride makes schools safe
and inclusive for all children by educating parents, teachers and
administrators about working together to create diversity
programming and to ensure that bullying is not tolerated. The
society in which we live can either lift up that mission or drag it
down. Stand firm with Family Pride – join our
to find out how you can help.