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AmericaSpeaks’ Role in Forging a Citywide Policy on Bullying in DC

AmericaSpeaks, an organizational member of NCDD, facilitated the District of Columbia Mayor’s Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force over the past year, and the District’s citywide prevention policy was recently released. The policy sets an important precedent by being one of the first city-wide anti-bullying policies, and it has already begun to be implemented.  Here is Steve Brigham’s recent blog post outlining AmericaSpeaks’ role in this important project.  Steve’s original post on the AmericaSpeaks blog can be found here: www.americaspeaks.org/blog/forging-a-citywide-policy-on-bullying.

AmericaSpeaks_LogoBullying has been a chronic problem for many school-aged kids across the country for decades, but has never been well addressed. In fact, it is an issue that has been largely ignored until recently. The issue received a significant boost in 2012 with the release of the documentary film, Bully, about students who face bullying on a daily basis in U.S. schools.

Up until now, most bullying prevention policies have been developed and implemented at the state level and focused almost exclusively on K-12 settings. Very few cities have initiated anti-bullying policy efforts although many urban school districts have. No cities, to my knowledge, have initiated a policy that applies city-wide and very few states, jurisdictions, or educational systems have done it primarily with an eye toward prevention.

Working in collaboration with the Urban Institute, a national nonpartisan policy research non-profit organization and under the direction of the Office of Human Rights in the District, AmericaSpeaks has had the privilege to facilitate the District of Columbia Mayor’s Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force over the past eight months. The Mayor assigned the diverse task force, consisting of representatives from District government agencies, advocacy organizations, direct service providers, educational institutions, school mental health professionals, as well as teachers, parents and legal guardians, and youth, in building a bullying prevention policy on behalf of the District’s youth.

Yesterday I was honored to attend the unveiling of the District’s model policy. Authored by the Urban Institute after extensive input from and deliberation with the 42 task force members, the model policy is unique in several ways:

  • The policy 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.
  • The policy uses a public health framework to effectively target prevention efforts and interventions.
  • The policy is evidence-based, using research and best practices that are tailored to fit the realities of the District.

This initiative was a unique engagement for AmericaSpeaks to facilitate, as we are most known for our facilitation of large-scale meetings and processes and are rarely involved so extensively in the formal policy-making process. It was a special opportunity for us to begin our involvement immediately after the signing of the Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 (in late spring last year), and help OHR and the Task Force see it through to the creation of a formal city-wide model policy this January. Once approved by the Mayor in the weeks to come, the policy will require all city agencies, educational institutions, and grantees that work directly with young people to implement an anti-bullying policy before the end of 2013.

The model policy can be viewed at ohr.dc.gov/bullyingprevention/policy. Read the Washington Post’s coverage here.


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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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