(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the District’s first city-wide Anti-Bullying Action Plan led by the DC Office of Human Rights. This comprehensive plan brings together DC government agencies, nonprofit organizations, community partners, and educators across the city to find solutions to confront and eradicate bullying across the District. In 2011, Mayor Gray proclaimed April 21 “Bully Free DC Day.” The initiation of the Anti-Bullying Action Plan coincides with the 2nd Annual Bully Free DC Day and represents a significant step forward in ensuring an inclusive and ridicule-free city.
Bullying remains an endemic problem for youth and young adults across the country. While not a new phenomenon, the widespread use of social media has given youth a new platform on which to express hurtful, and often dangerous practices, known as cyber-bullying. This issue reaches most all children and young adults at some point in their life, whether as a victim, bully, or bystander. Recent statistics show that nearly 32 percent of youth are bullied and over 20 percent of children ages 10-18 are victims of cyberbullying.
“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,” Mayor Gray said. “We must come together – government, nonprofits, advocates, teachers and parents – to eradicate bullying in the District, and promote safe and inclusive schools.”
Mayor Gray advocates for a multi-sector approach to solve the growing problem of bullying, using a comprehensive, city-wide approach in line with his “One City” vision. This far-reaching approach, known as the District of Columbia’s Anti-Bullying Action Plan, consists of four stages, including: 1) Formation of a multi-stakeholder Task Force, 2) Commissioning of Research Report, 3) Creation of a Model Policy and Standards, 4) DC Agency and Stakeholder Forum.
“The problem of bullying transcends the school yard. It is a fundamental issue of human rights, and requires the entire city to be present to promote solutions,” said Gustavo Velasquez, Director of the DC Office of Human Rights. “We need to investigate where 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.”
The 14 Directors on the Task Force include Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department, Chancellor Kaya Henderson of DC Public Schools, Director Jeffrey Richardson of the Mayor’s Office on GLBT Affairs, Director Jesus Aguirre of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, and Director Dr. Mohammad Akhter of the DC Department of Health. Other represented agencies will include the DC Public Charter School Board, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Department of Public Libraries, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the Office of Disability Rights, the University of the District of Columbia, and Child and Family Services Administration.
A number of local nonprofits and advocacy groups including GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), Children’s Medical Center and DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DC AYA) will serve on the Anti-Bullying Task Force, as well as District teachers and parents.