ThinkProgress attended the “Bully Free DC Day” Rally.
District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) declared today “Bully Free DC Day” and offered his support to a coalition of national and local groups rallying for passage of the Bullying and Prevention Act of 2011. Students, teachers, and youth advocates spoke alongside District councilmembers in support of the anti-bullying legislation, but also pressured the Council to make it stronger.
The bill, in its current form (PDF), does not protect all the characteristics enumerated in DC’s Human Rights Law. Associational language is not included, so students who might be bullied for having friends or relatives with the protected characteristics would also not be protected. According to the Family Equality Council, only 11 states currently enumerate bullying protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, and fewer still (five) include associational language. Other concerns expressed about the bill include that it does not include accountability measures for teachers and students who witness bullying nor does it call for aggregated reporting of documented incidents.
A study released this week shows that schools that have specified anti-bullying policies have lower rates of attempted suicide among their students, both LGBT and heterosexual. D’ Angelo Morrison, a gay DC youth, spoke at today’s rally of how he attempted suicide after being made to feel “weird, ugly, unimportant, and depressed” and said the bill needed to be passed to “save the lives of our youth.”
Today’s rally marked groundbreaking cooperation among national and local groups speaking together for one issue. Coordinated by the Safe Schools Action Network (SSAN), the DC Safe Schools Coalition includes national groups such as GLSEN, the It Gets Better Project, and the Family Equality Council. Shannon Cuttle, executive director of SSAN, said today, “If we can get this legislation passed, it’ll be a symbol of what a community can do together.”