A large contingent of LGBT young people joined officials from the mayor’s office and members of the City Council on April 21 in a “Rally for a Bully-Free D.C.”
The event was held on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building, which serves as the D.C. City Hall.
Organizers said the rally was aimed at drawing attention to the longstanding problem of bullying in the city’s public schools, especially anti-LGBT bullying. Nearly all of the more than one dozen speakers called on the D.C. Council to pass a bill introduced earlier this year by D.C. Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) called the Bullying and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011.
The bill, which has been co-sponsored by nearly all Council members, would require D.C. public schools and public charter schools, the University of the District of Columbia, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the city’s public libraries to develop comprehensive policies to prevent student bullying and harassment.
Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, read a proclamation at the rally issued by Mayor Vincent Gray declaring April 21 “Bully Free D.C. Day.”
Among the young people speaking at the rally were Victoria Kirby, a graduate student at Howard University; Ladera Ellis, Kyrina Harris, Pernell Gordon, and Fidelia Iqwe of Metro Teen AIDS; Frieda Smith and D’Angelo Morrison of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL); and Tyrone Hanley, a University of the District of Columbia law student.
Most of them gave personal accounts of witnessing or experiencing anti-LGBT bullying during their high school years. Morrison said he considered but ultimately rejected suicide after encountering relentless bullying and intimidation when his fellow high school students discovered he was gay.
Thomas said he was certain the Council would soon pass his anti-bullying bill, saying he looks forward to working with D.C. public school officials in developing stringent anti-bullying policies. He called current school policies aimed at curtailing bullying a “patchwork” of rules that differ from school to school that don’t adequately address the problem.
He has said he is open to suggested amendments to the bill proposed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance and others that would, among other things, require its anti-bullying and anti-intimidation provisions to cover all the categories of protected groups listed in the D.C. Human Rights Act.
Among the Council members speaking at the rally, in addition to Thomas, were Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), and Sekou Biddle (D-At-Large).