Mayor Vincent Gray (D) has set a date, June 22, to sign the recently passed bill to combat bullying, intimidation and harassment of youth in D.C. schools, libraries, recreation centers and other youth-friendly venues.
Gray will sign the bill in a ceremony at the Wilson Building at 9 a.m. that Friday. After signing, the law is subject to a 30-day congressional review period, which is not expected to jeopardize it in any way. Once in effect, the law will place the District alongside 15 other states that have passed anti-bullying laws with specific protections for sexual orientation and for gender identity and expression.
The bill, known as ''The Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012,'' seeks to combat youth bullying and harassment by introducing citywide policies to prevent hostile behavior and to address it when it occurs – even off school grounds or outside regular school hours. Specifically, the measure establishes a bullying prevention task force that includes District agency heads, teachers, parents and community activists, who are charged with crafting model policies and standards to be adopted by agencies such as District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), District of Columbia Public Charter Schools (DCPCS), the Department of Parks and Recreation, the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) and the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). Policies proposed by the task force are expected to go into effect one year after the 30-day congressional review period.
''The D.C. Office of Human Rights is thrilled Mayor Gray and the City Council recognize bullying as an issue of basic human rights and are making such a significant commitment to end bullying in the District,'' Gustavo Velasquez, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, said in a statement. ''The Mayor's Anti-Bullying Task Force will bring together 14 government agencies and dozens of community advocates to ensure diverse voices are able to create truly citywide policies. The Office of Human Rights will work closely with the Task Force and anti-bullying advocates in the District to ensure kids feel safe and secure when in our parks, libraries, schools, transportation system, and throughout the District.''
Shannon Cuttle, a safe-schools activist who is leading the task force and the implementation of the anti-bullying action plan, tells Metro Weekly, ''Making inclusive safe schools a priority in the District for all students and families on a citywide level is groundbreaking.''
Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for D.C. and another member of the task force, says, ''All public libraries should be welcoming and safe for children and for adults. … This new legislation gives us the opportunity to identify more ways we can help prevent bullying at District of Columbia Public Libraries.''
Andrew Barnett, executive director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) and another member of the mayor's task force, thanked Gray and the council for supporting the measure, which was in the works for more than a year.
''Many of our LGBTQ youth share with us their stories of bullying in their schools, and we see how devastating the impact can be,'' Barnett said. ''We look forward to working with the Mayor's Anti-Bullying Task Force to implement this new law and make real its promise of ensuring a safe and bully-free learning environment for all of our city's young people.''