Speaking at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) responded to an audience member's question about what she would do about teen bullying in schools by reiterating her oft-repeated call for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.
"I think that this is an issue that needs to be handled at the local level," Bachmann said. "I don't like to have the federal government involved in telling the local schools what to do. For one thing, there was no federal Department of Education until the late 1970s. So, I don't want the federal government involved. I actually want to end the federal Department of Education."
Republican presidential hopefuls have long expressed their desire for less federal intervention in American public schools, and most agree that the U.S. Department of Education should play a smaller role than it currently does. But Bachmann and Ron Paul are the only two that are calling for the department's complete elimination.
She had also said before at a California rally last month that bullying "is not a federal issue," according to CBS News.
Bachmann said Friday that "bullying is a bad thing," and the way to address the issue is by lessening the federal role in public schools to empower parents "so they can have a stronger hand to stand up for their kids."
She added, "It's $1.8 billion that we spend on the federal Department of Education, and I want to send that money, I want to make sure that money goes back to the schools so that the schools can handle these issues."
The presidential hopeful was cast in the spotlight on issues surrounding school bullying as nine teens in a school district that falls in her Congressional district had committed suicide over the last two years. Several of those students were gay and reportedly acted as a result of being bullied, according to The Minnesota Independent.
As stories and lawsuits against the district unfolded through the summer months, Bachmann stayed silent on the system's teen suicides.
But last month, the mother of a gay suicide victim submitted to Bachmann's office a box carrying 141,000 petitioning signatures to request that the congresswoman denounce the anti-gay bullying that the mother said led to her then-15-year-old son's death.
Marking the first official public statement that Bachmann had issued that addresses gay bullying in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin Schools, Bachmann's response to the mother's petition said that "bullying is wrong" and that she is "very aware and concerned about the cases of bullying and suicides that have occurred."
Recently, the death of Jamey Rodemeyer has cast a national spotlight on gay bullying in schools, particularly the complex emotional and social issues that lead to extreme measures like 14-year-old Rodemeyer's suicide. The teenager killed himself after posting a viral "It Gets Better" video, and his case drew further national attention when Lady Gaga vowed on Twitter to make bullying illegal -- even going to the president himself to address the issue.
A recent video shows a school bully waiting inside a classroom for a gay student, so he could beat the victim to the ground. To combat bullying, victims are taking to other measures -- like plastic surgery -- just so the harassment stops.
Joining Lady Gaga in the public fight against school bullying is a host of prominent figures and organizations, including rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Tyra Banks and popular children's show Sesame Street.