The recommendations the Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force developed with the Urban Institute and AmericaSpeaks will focus on three prevention models: ensuring anti-bullying prevention efforts reach every D.C. resident, focusing specifically on youth who are either at-risk for bullying or are more likely to become bullies and working with bullying victims and those who have victimized them.
Elliot Imse of the D.C. Office of Human Rights told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that task force members decided to approach the issue from a public health perspective.
“The city council and the mayor’s office really wanted us to make this a citywide policy that goes above and beyond responding to incidents when they happen,” he said. “So the researchers took the unique approach and realized as we talk about all the aspects of bullying and the consequences of bullying to victims; it really does come down to public health issues, mental health issues, the risk of suicide, the risk of homeless, things like that, and really decided to take a public health approach to it.”
The Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 that Gray signed into law last June requires all city agencies, educational institutions and grantees that work directly with young people to implement an anti-bullying policy by September.
It also created the Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force and charged it with developing a model policy upon which the aforementioned groups can create their own anti-bullying protocols. D.C. Public Schools, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, Metro Teen AIDS and the D.C. Trans Coalition are among the dozens of agencies and organizations with representatives on the task force.
“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,” Gray said before he signed the anti-bullying measure into law.
Imse said the task force’s recommendations are part of what he described as one of the country’s most comprehensive bullying prevention efforts.
“We know bullying happens at school, of course that’s where we need to focus a lot of our energy,” he said. “But bullying happens in recreation centers, in our libraries, in our transit system and really we need to be addressing it from that level so that the government of the District is really doing everything it can to prevent bullying in the first place. These bullying incidents add up, the health effects pile on regardless of whether it’s in school or not. So what this policy does is try to address bullying in all the public spaces that the government can.”
Shawn Gaylord of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, who sits on the task force, applauded D.C. officials for their efforts to combat bullying in the nation’s capital.
“The recommendations that will be presented tomorrow are truly groundbreaking in their reach and will help make D.C. a safer place for all young people,” he told the Blade on Wednesday. “GLSEN is proud to have been a part of this effort from the very beginning and we look forward to continuing to partner alongside Mayor Gray and the Office of Human Rights on this important initiative.”
“Every day in our city, LGBTQ youth go to school and access other services knowing that they will likely endure teasing, harassment and even physical abuse before they return home,” SMYAL Executive Director Andrew Barnett added. “These comprehensive recommendations are an important milestone in our journey to address bullying and harassment in the District and to create safer spaces for all of our youth. Now, we must ensure the recommendations are quickly and fully adopted and implemented by every agency that serves young people.”
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