Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill on Friday that will require city agencies that work directly with young people to implement an anti-bullying policy.
“I am absolutely proud to say that today we are taking yet another bold and concrete step towards eradicating bullying in our city,” he said during a ceremony at the Wilson Building. “There is much more work to do, but I can’t think of a more noble or impactful goal than to end bullying of our youth and continue to create environments where our young people learn and thrive in health and safety.”
The Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 establishes an anti-bullying task force that will include representatives from D.C. Public Schools, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Mayor’s Office on GLBT Affairs, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League and other government agencies and community organizations. They will be charged with developing a comprehensive model policy that supporters of the law hope will provide the foundation upon which D.C. government agencies can create their own anti-bullying strategies.
The new law will also protect those who report incidents of bullying from retaliation.
“This is a very, very important piece of legislation,” said D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “Bullying has significant impacts on our young people and it is a barrier to students’ success. We can’t insure that our young people are prepared and they have a world class education that ensures that they’re ready for college or a career if they don’t feel safe, if they don’t feel confident, if they don’t feel able to be themselves because other people are bullying them.”
Office of Human Rights Director Gustavo Velasquez, Police Chief Cathy Lanier, D.C. Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Michael Brown (I-At Large) and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin were among those who attended the signing ceremony.
“For our city, this is part of our values,” said Wells, who chairs the Council committee that originally approved the bill in April. “This is who we are. This is very important.”
Pending congressional review, D.C. will join 17 other states that have enacted comprehensive anti-bullying laws that include LGBT-specific provisions.
The ceremony took place just days after a video of four upstate New York middle school students bullying a 68-year-old bus monitor went viral on the Internet.
An HRC report earlier this month noted that 51 percent of LGBT youth have been verbally harassed at school. The survey also reported that LGBT students are twice as likely to suffer violence in the classroom than their heterosexual classmates.
“Today really is a landmark day for our city’s youth,” said Griffin, who described the law as the “most robust” anti-bullying measure in the country because it applies to all city agencies that work directly with youth. “Laws can be more than words on a page. They can send a powerful message and today that message rings loud and clear. The fact that we’re standing here today and the mayor will soon sign this bill into law tells every LGBT young person not just in D.C. but around the country that they have value and that they have reason to be hopeful.”
Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael
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