District-wide Model Bullying Prevention Policy
“We on the Task Force are extremely proud of the model bullying prevention policy that resulted from dozens of meeting hours, hundreds of phone calls and many informative focus groups with our District youth,” said Gustavo Velasquez, chair of the Task Force and Director of the Office of Human Rights (OHR). “We’ve done much to reach this point, but now the entire District must work together to ensure the policy and law are implemented effectively.”
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Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed into law the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 in June of 2012, which created a Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force led by the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. The Task Force – which met eight times between May 2012 and January 2013 – was a compilation of representatives from District government agencies, advocates, direct service providers, administrators from educational institutions, school mental health professionals, teachers, parents and legal guardians, and youth. It convened for over 24 hours together as a full Task Force, and also met as subcommittees. Members of the Subcommittee on Youth held five focus groups with youth to ensure their perspectives, needs and concerns were heard by the Task Force.
The result of the Task Force’s work – this model bullying prevention policy – is unique in that (1) it is one of the first in the nation to address bullying at a citywide level, acknowledging bullying happens beyond the schools and occurs in libraries, recreation centers, the transit system and other public spaces as well; (2) uses a public health framework to target prevention efforts and interventions effectively; and (3) is evidence-based, using research and best practices that are tailored to fit the realities of the District. All youth-serving agencies, educational institutions and grantees are required under law to use the model policy as a guide for creating and implementing their own bullying prevention policies.
Among the recommendations is in the policy is that all government employees who have contact with youth receive professional development training on bullying prevention, that data collection be undertaken to provide a portrait of the current state of bullying in the District and to guide future interventions, and to identify at-risk youth and employ strategies to prevent them from becoming victims of bullying.
The model policy was written by John Roman and Sam Bieler of the Urban Institute, working on behalf of the Task Force. Steve Brigham of AmericaSpeaks assisted OHR with the planning and facilitation of the meetings.