A Republican lawmaker is proposing legislation to help combat the growing issues surrounding bullying and cyber bullying in schools as first lady Melania Trump continues her efforts to put the issue into the spotlight.
Rep. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., is introducing legislation, known as "Danny's Law," to create an anti-bullying roundtable to study the issue in both elementary and high schools as cyber bullying becomes increasingly difficult to recognize.
The legislation is named after Danny Fitzpatrick, a 13-year-old Staten Island native who took his own life after being bullied due to his weight and grades and said he warned school administrators about it.
"I gave up," Fitzpatrick wrote in a note to his family. “The teachers ... they didn’t do anything.”
The news jolted Donovan, a two-term congressman, who said he was alarmed by Fitzpatrick's death and by the Internet's impact on bullying in schools today.
"It really opens your eyes about how prevalent and dangerous bullying has become in our society and our community," Donovan said in an interview. "I'm so old ... when I was a kid, in order for someone to bully, they had to be bigger and stronger and more intimidating than the people they were bullying. Now with social media and Facebook and Twitter and all those other things, anyone can bully somebody.
"Danny's tragedy brought to light what's happening to young people in schools and on the Internet after school," Donovan said.
The roundtable, which would be established by the president, would include teachers, guidance counselors and bullying victims who would study the issue for nine months and report back to Congress on the best practices to combat bullying in schools.
Donovan's push coincides with the first lady's efforts to combat cyber bullying, which she began discussing during the waning moments of the 2016 presidential campaign and revived in late September during an address at a United Nations luncheon. Although the effort by the first lady has not been officially unveiled, Trump is setting herself up for it by attending various events, including the U.N. speech and a trip to Michigan to participate in a "No One Eats Alone" anti-bullying event in late October.
The New York Republican believes that his push, along with the first lady's initiative and support from his congressional colleagues, could put his legislation over the finish line.
"It's certainly a matter that needs to be addressed," Donovan said. "Mrs. Trump's interests in what's happening to our young people, she should be commended for it ... My hope is that the administration sees Danny's Law and sees that it fits in good with the first lady's mission.
"I think with Mrs. Trump's interest in the subject matter, [Danny's Law is] all the more likely to become law," he said.
While Melania Trump has renewed her push in recent months, President Trump has remained relatively silent on the issue and has continued his well-known tweeting habits, including name-calling and personal attacks on lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who oppose his agenda or parts of it. Donovan, however, doesn't see Trump's tweeting as an obstacle despite the pointed attacks he levels from time to time.
"That's a completely different issue. I'm talking about children now," Donovan said. "There are certain conducts in all walks of life that are more appropriate for adults than there are for children, so I think that parents and school-teachers and administrators and loved ones can separate what the president's doing from what children are doing. The president ... has a mistrust of the media and he feels that tweeting and getting his message out unfiltered is a way that he'd like to reach out to the people of America."
Donovan said he has not brought up the issue with the White House yet, but plans to put it on their radar screen in the coming weeks.