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D.C. task force to release anti-bullying recommendations

City agencies, schools and grantees must adopt anti-bullying policies under 2012 law



Gay News, Washington Blade, bullying

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.”

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  1. brian

    January 31, 2013 at 6:18 am

    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?

  2. Robben Wainer

    January 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    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.

  3. Robben Wainer

    January 31, 2013 at 11:14 am

    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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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video



Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed



(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville



Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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