Congress Takes On School Bullies With Help From Hollywood, Kennedy Family

The anti-bullying caucus returned Wednesday.

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Director Lee Hirsch arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary "Bully" on March 26, 2012 in Hollywood, Calif. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Director Lee Hirsch arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary "Bully" on March 26, 2012 in Hollywood, Calif. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Congress said it was ready to restart the fight against school bullies this week, re-launching its anti-bullying caucus with support from the Kennedy family, a Hollywood filmmaker and leaders of major teacher advocacy groups.

Formed in 2012, the main goal of the caucus is to advocate for bills that target bullying, such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require all schools to create and enforce anti-bullying policies. The bill, still in committee, was endorsed by President Barack Obama last year.

But Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., who chairs the caucus, says he now believes legislation might not be the best answer.

[READ: Bullying Linked to Suicide, Depression in Adulthood]

"There are 57 members in this loose-knit, ragtag bullying caucus and we're just a year old, so we're still formulating who we are," he said. "Perhaps it may not be a law, but it may that we have an expectation of... adults [who are] in touch with young kids at least eight hours a day" that bullying won't be tolerated.

Leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, who spoke at the launch, said they would do their part and encourage teachers to be resources for kids bullied in their classrooms. According to the American Justice Department, 1 out of every 4 children experience bullying at school.

Lee Hirsch, who made the 2011 documentary "Bully," which follows five students who are regularly – and brutally – picked on by their classmates, said he would like to see members of Congress push for school evaluations based on the safety and happiness of their students.

"We evaluate the health of our schools based on how many kids are passing English, or on test scores," he said. "So why don't we also ask schools to do a school safety and climate survey, and then make those public?"

[STUDY: Teenagers Feel More Entitled Than Ever]

Another bullying prevention initiative, Project SEATBELT, was also launched on Wednesday, from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The initiative kicked off with an ad voiced by Kerry Kennedy, the president of the center and daughter of former U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The ad played during Game 1 of the NBA finals Thursday night.

"As parents we are surrounded by warnings meant to keep our kids safe," says Kennedy, who has three daughters, as images of children play across the screen. "But there is one danger that doesn't have a sticker, a label or a sign. So this is your warning: bullying affects all of us." Watch the ad below:

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