Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, released the following statement regarding media reports involving disturbing incidents of bullying and harassment by a Miami Dolphins football player against a teammate:
"There is a place for tough play and tough talk in the National Football League -- on the field of play. But off-the-field bullying, harassment, and intimidation of teammates and others is simply unacceptable and must not be tolerated. I applaud Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for requesting, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for initiating, an investigation into the serious allegations of bullying, hazing, and harassment made by Dolphins player Jonathan Martin, who should be commended for his courage in coming forward.
"I am also calling for Commissioner Goodell to commit the NFL to participate in a national campaign to combat bullying -- not just in NFL locker rooms but also in the nation's schools and playgrounds and in cyberspace.
"Preventing bullying is one of the major challenges facing our nation today. Research studies estimate that on average an 160,000 students in this country refuse to go to school because they fear being bullied and many more attend school in a chronic state of anxiety and depression. In addition, six out of ten American youth witness bullying at least once a day, and nearly 30 percent -- or 5.7 million children -- are involved in bullying as victims, perpetrators, or both.
"Fifteen percent of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied and about 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. An alarming 90% of all students in grades 4-8 report being bullying victims and 10% of students who drop out of school do so because of repeated bullying.
"Bullying can escalate into more serious behavior. According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 86% of high school students said that "other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them' causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in the schools.
"The National Football League is one of the great institutions in America. Its product is among the most popular and appeals to every segment of the population and every region of the country. The NFL has a history of providing leadership and setting an example when it comes to addressing important issues facing the nation such as providing equal opportunity, embracing diversity, and fighting breast cancer. Reducing the incidence of bullying is another area where the NFL can have a major impact by adopting a zero-tolerance policy.
"Earlier this year, as a member of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus and the Committee on the Judiciary, I reintroduced the "Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Reauthorization and the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2013," (H.R. 2585), to help address the problem by providing funding to state and local governments for the creation of bullying and gang prevention programs. I also had anti-hazing and bullying language included in the FY 2014 Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (H.R. 2397), which passed the House on July 24.
"I am proud that the state of Texas has adopted specific laws to prevent this type of abuse in schools. The Texas Education Code requires Texas public schools to "prohibit bullying, harassment and making hit lists and ensure that district employees enforce these prohibitions.' I urge everyone to take a pledge to fight against bullying.
"If we want our children to learn and workers to be productive, we must be able to provide and maintain safe and healthy in which to learn and work. I call upon the NFL to institute a zero-tolerance policy against bullying and upon the Congress to address this problem with prompt dispatch."