January 31, 2013 at 12:31 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
D.C. task force to release anti-bullying recommendations

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Bullying

Mayor Vincent Gray signs the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Members of a D.C. mayoral task force on Thursday will unveil a series of recommendations designed to further tackle bullying in the city.

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.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • This is a very good thing, Mayor Gray.

    But it is so not enough– especially when LGBT residents of, and LGBT visitors to DC risk violent attack for just walking around DC as open and proud LGBT people.

    Incredibly violent anti-LGBT hate crimes have continued to go up in DC during the years– both while you were Council Chair, and now, during your time as mayor.

    As soon as you were elected, you spectacularly broke your campaign promise to the LGBT community by failing to consult LGBT public safety activists in your choice for police chief. And you hastily re-appointed the chief who tried to destroy MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit as soon as she came to office in 2007.

    Your chief of police has done nothing to stop anti-LGBT hate crimes in DC for six long years. And now Human Rights Watch accuses Chief Lanier’s MPD of having a culture of ignoring, belittling and discouraging sexual assault victims from reporting…
    The report released by Human Rights Watch Thursday said the group couldn’t find incident reports on 170 cases from 2008 to September 2011.”

    “Dozens of people who work with victims and from victims and from medical staff and from different community organizations said they are concerned that cases weren’t being taken seriously and that victims were being treated insensitively and were belittled and discouraged from reporting and not believed when they went to the police for help,” said Sara Dareshori, of Human Rights Watch.

    (NBC Washington, By Jim Handly, Jan 24, 2013 )
    Do you suppose that might sound familiar to victims of violent anti-LGBT hate crimes, as well? How many LGBT hate crimes while you were mayor and chairman of the Council, Mr. Gray, have been close with an arrest? Where was your personal oversight and concern?

    What have you REALLY done to stop anti-LGBT hate crimes in DC?

    Earlier this month, you joined your chief of police in another dishonest PR photo-op taking outrageous personal credit for a 50-year drop in homicides in DC. But the truth is that same said 50-year drop in homicides has occurred all across our nation– and that’s been widely reported in the press (including in WaPo, this month).

    Just how stupid do you think DC voters– both LGBT and straight, really are, Mr. Gray?

  • Gay Youth have so many strikes against them in forming a sexual identity. I feel it is our role not to exclude them from achieving their goals. Hate crimes are not distinguishable by age. I feel many Gay Youth have to submit to being different by those who are attempting to do them harm. There is nothing worse than subjecting our youth to punishment that serves only to inhibit and intimidate them.

  • I feel Gay Youth have so many strikes against them in forming a sexual identity. I hope that the influence of Bullies does not altar their views of one another. There is no reason to keep closeted or punish our Gay Youth who need help in achieving their goals.

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