Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez Educates Thousands of Kentucky High School Students on Bullying
LEXINGTON, KY - Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division spoke to all the ninth-graders in Lexington, KY., Public Schools today. He encouraged students to prevent bullying by embracing diversity.
The event was jointly organized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Kentucky and the Fayette County public school district to help educate students on the topics of bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools.
Approximately 700 students attended the event while around 2,400 participated from their respective schools through a live classroom feed. Students also took part in a question and answer session after the speech, with some submitting questions about bullying through emails and text messages to Assistant Attorney General Perez and others who were part of a panel.
“Today’s bullies are often tomorrow’s civil rights defendants,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez. “It’s important for schools to foster a learning environment where diversity isn’t just tolerated but embraced.”
Assistant Attorney General Perez conducted a press conference for local media and student journalists. The student journalists will compose stories on the topic for dissemination throughout their respective schools as a way to increase awareness about bullying.
Studies show millions of students nationwide are bullied at school; including being shoved, pushed, tripped and even spit on by other students. The Anti-Defamation League found that bullying victims are more likely to engage in behaviors such as illegal drug use, dropping out of school and suicide.
As part of his visit to Lexington, Assistant Attorney General Perez also spoke about civil rights to at the University Of Kentucky College Of Law. Perez also participated in an event attended by approximately 175 local leaders. Audience members also heard from the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Kerry B. Harvey, who described the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s (USAO) ongoing civil rights initiative.
The USAO and its law enforcement partners have been very active in investigating and prosecuting civil rights cases. Earlier this month, the leader of a sex trafficking ring in Kentucky, Marco Antonio Flores-Benitez, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. When Flores-Benitez pleaded guilty to the charges in May, it marked Kentucky’s first conviction for sex trafficking. Three other defendants were also convicted and sentenced.
At an afternoon community event, the USAO presented awards to officers from the Lexington Division of Police who helped investigate the sex trafficking case. In addition, two officials from the University of Kentucky received awards for assisting the USAO in its civil rights efforts.