D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced plans for a citywide anti-bullying initiative Wednesday night at a private screening hosted by the mayor’s office of the documentary film “Bully.”
“This comprehensive plan brings together D.C. government agencies, nonprofit organizations, community partners, and educators across the city to find solutions to confront and eradicate bullying across the District,” a statement released by the mayor’s office says.
Gray told the audience of invited guests at the screening, including representatives of the LGBT community, that he was proud to have the city host a showing of a film he called a “powerful” portrayal of how bullying impacts young people across the nation and in the District.
He told reporters at the time he arrived for the screening that his anti-bullying initiative, called the District of Columbia Anti-Bullying Action Plan, is to be led by the city’s Office of Human Rights.
The mayor’s anti-bullying plan comes less than two weeks before a D.C. City Council committee was expected to vote on an anti-bullying bill that has been stalled in the Council for nearly two years. The bill calls for the city’s public and charter schools, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the public library system and the University of the District of Columbia to develop comprehensive anti-bullying policies.
A spokesperson for Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), whose committee is expected to vote on the bill, said he was uncertain when the bill would be voted on by the full Council.
The mayor’s proposal calls for the creation of a “multi-stakeholder task force, the commissioning of a research report on bullying, creation of a model anti-bully policy and standards, and a “D.C. Agency and Stakeholder Forum.”
Gray said the task force would consist of the heads of 14 city agencies, including the police chief, chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools, director of the mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs; director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, director of the Department of Health, director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, director of the Office of Disability Rights, head of the Child and Family Services Administration, and an official with the University of the District of Columbia.
Gustavo Velasquez, director of the Human Rights Office, said the task force would also include representatives of non-profit and advocacy organizations, including the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates as well as city teachers and parents.
“The problem of bullying transcends the school yard,” said Velasquez. “It is a fundamental issue of human rights, and requires the entire city to be present to promote solutions,” he said.
“We need to investigate where the bullying occurs in the city and what makes the District different from other cities in incidents of bullying so we can develop and implement solutions to best help our youth,” he said.
Gray said his plan’s “multi-sector approach” would seek to address the bullying problem in a comprehensive way.
“When one in five children are targets of bullying each day, and these events all too often lead to severe social and emotional crises for our youth, we must let our youth know that we hear them,” Gray said. “We must come together – government, nonprofits, advocates, teachers and parents – to eradicate bullying in the District, and promote safe and inclusive schools.”
The screening of the documentary “Bully” took place at the E Street Cinema in downtown D.C. Gray and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson provided details of the anti-bullying plan to the audience prior to the screening of the film.
Following the screening, Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Office of GLBT Affairs, led a panel discussion on the bullying issue with representatives of the city’s public schools, including two high school students.
Charles Allen, chief of staff for Council member Wells, said one of the reasons the Council’s anti-bullying bill had been stalled was an initial inability to determine where funds could be identified to pay for implementing the legislation.
In talking to the media prior to the film screening, Gray said he strongly supports the bill and would work with Wells and other members of the Council to secure the necessary funding for the bill.
Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou
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