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Obama: Suicides of Bullied Youth are Heartbreaking

President Obama answers questions during the MTV, BET, CMT Youth Town Hall, Oct. 14, 2010. CBS

At a town hall with young Americans Thursday, President Obama called the recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi and other young people who had been bullied heartbreaking.

"Our heart breaks when we read about what happened at Rutgers, when we read about some of these other young people who are doing nothing to deserve the kind of harassment and bullying that just completely gets out of hand," he said in response to a question about Internet bullying.

He said the Department of Education had recently held a summit to address "how to help set up structures where young people feel safe, where there is a trigger that goes off when this sort of bullying."

He acknowledged that the nature of the Internet complicates matters.

"Part of the power of the Internet is that information flows out there and it is generally not censored and it is generally not controlled by any single authority," he said. He said there is nothing to stop schools, however, from setting up "Zero tolerance" policies that say "harassment of any unacceptable."

He also noted that there are some laws addressing such harassment - but added that "the law doesn't always change what's in people's hearts."

That's why, he said, he and his wife talk to their daughters about putting themselves in other people's shoes and help them understand that "what we may think is funny or cute may end up being powerfully hurtful."

"There's a values component to this," he said, arguing that "peer pressure can lead people to bully, but peer pressure can also say bullying is not acceptable."

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Washington Unplugged Talks to MTV's Sway Calloway About the Town Hall Below:


Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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