Every day, thousands of young people experience bullying in some form. Whether it’s from their peers in school, their neighbors, or even in their home from social media and texts, young people face an unprecedented threat of bullying.

More than 30% of people in the 79th district are children ages 17 or younger, and 1 in 4 of our neighbors are young adults. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one out of every five students is bullied at some point in their life. The myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up is precisely that: a myth. It’s one that we need to dispel.

Being a victim of bullying can have lifelong adverse and sometimes irreversible effects on our children and their families. Students who are bullied are more likely to have challenges in school, to succumb to drugs and alcohol abuse and to have health and mental health issues. We all need to get involved in the movement to end bullying and raise awareness. We need more resources and stricter laws. We need to come together as elected officials and sponsor legislation that makes bullying a crime punishable under the law. I hope that Congress will take action to ensure that all students are safe and healthy in and out of schools.

Families should instill in their children and other family members that bullying is wrong, hurtful, and it can destroy lives. Families should make it safe for their children to confide in them if they feel they are being bullied. Children should feel loved, protected, and that they are NOT alone.

Communities and schools should join the anti-bully movement as well by providing resources that are accessible to our youth, including learning about coping methods and ways to prevent themselves from being bullied.

My dream is not to change just policies or laws about bullying but to change behaviors, so that everyone will be able to thrive in our communities, schools, and neighborhoods, without fear of being bullied. Let’s make a change, and it begins with us.