SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) – Two North Bay sisters were among the panelists at an anti-bullying summit hosted by President Barack Obama and the first lady at the White House Thursday.

More than 150 teachers, parents, students and other experts were invited to share their ideas on the issue.

“If there’s one goal, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage,” Obama said.

Mill Valley teen Emily Buder and her sister began writing letters of support when a Novato teenager with epilepsy was being endlessly harassed several years ago.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

They encouraged the girl’s friends and teachers to do the same. Others from the community also joined the letter writing campaign.

“That really helped lift her spirits,” Buder said.

“It let her know that people actually cared about the fact that this was happening, because in her immediate community she was meeting a lot of resistance.”

Soon the Buders’ campaign ballooned and letters began pouring in from all over the nation. Six thousand letters were eventually compiled into a book, “Letters to a Bullied Girl.”

Buder, now 21, and her 18-year-old sister Sarah, have become experts on a topic whose definition has expanded considerably as children’s worlds have grown to encompass not just neighborhoods and playgrounds but online social networks.

“It’s a glaring issue and no one really knows how to handle it. There’s sort of a dialogue going on right now, but there’s nothing in the school curriculum,” Emily Buder said.

Obama urged the parents and teachers in the conference to create a support system for their children and students.

“As adults, we can lose sight of how hard it can be sometimes to be a kid,” Obama said. “It’s easy for us to forget what it’s like to be teased or bullied, but it’s also easy to forget the natural compassion and the sense of decency that our children display each and every day when they’re given a chance.”

The White House say one-third of the nation’s students, or 13 million children, have been bullied. The issue has gained increased attention in recent years in part because of the impact of new technologies like Facebook and Twitter, and because of high-profile coverage of young people who have committed suicide after being bullied.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

  1. Caringmom says:

    It is so nice to hear of positive responses to this all too common situation. While ideally families would teach their children tolerance and kindness, school also need to have well developed curricula to teach appropriate behavior and acceptance throughout childhood and young adulthood, to protect those children victimized and those who are bullying. I had to pull my son from our local public school after trying for 2 years to resolve the bullying situation. The trauma my son experienced continues to affect him despite counseling and a positive private school experience, and my family has had to spend tens of thousands of dollars and leave our local school community.

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