Posts Tagged ‘Dignity of All Students’
The auspicious start to the new School Year—in NY State, the Dignity of All Student’s Act in the process of implementation, Seth’s Law (passed in California in April) on the books, and a host of other anti-bullying initiatives in other states– was overshadowed by the tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer. An early test of that law would be to pose a rhetorical question: could it have helped Jamey Rodemeyer?
Seth’s Law is California’s response to the ‘bullying-related’ September 2010 suicide of 13 yr old Seth Walsh. http://nclrights.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/seth%E2%80%99s-law-passes-key-california-legislative-committee/ The passing of the bill certainly would have played into Jamey’s belief that ‘it gets better’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Pb1CaGMdWk and that there actually is support for young people struggling with bullying—especially around sexual identity. But how would it have translated on a daily basis? Would it have translated?
Maybe that is the question we need to start asking. It is certainly the question Boyd and Marwick have posed in their OpEd piece in the NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/opinion/why-cyberbullying-rhetoric-misses-the-mark.html and it was refreshing to see a piece that has the potential to move our discussions of bullying forward. As devastating as Rodemeyer’s suicide was, rehashing the sentiments and outrage put forth over Seth, Tyler, Zach and 8 other young people who took their lives last September –or even worse, becoming inured and deadened to the horror of teen suicide, as it is now ‘commonplace’,–will hardly help us develop perspectives that will truly be of service to our young people. We need a new language, a new understanding of the teen psyche around this issue, and new social narratives—ones that make sense of these dynamics on their level.
Perhaps the real question is, could adults have done anything that would have made a difference? Jamey had support. He also blogged, repeatedly, about his torment. Do we have anything close to an answer that could have changed his social reality? Given him more hope than his surprising belief ‘it will get better’ –a belief he seemed to have, and shared in order to be a support for others.
On Monday in NYC the City Council’s Education Committee held an oversight hearing on the DOE’s (Department of Education) Efforts to Combat Bullying―e.g. their implementation of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) and the Impact of “Respect for All” . Numerous assemblymen and women were present, shared their personal stories of childhood bullying (e.g. had their name read into the public record), then left―-before, even, the DOE testified about the measures it has taken. The handful of politicians who remained were the only ones allowed to question the DOE testimony (which seemed to indicate the DOE is taking the crucial first steps which such a campaign needs to launch).
It was shocking to learn that only $300,000 was appropriated last year to address bullying in NYC schools, and this year only half that amount― $150,000―has been allocated for the implementation of DOSA. Seriously? There are over 1,500 public schools in the New York City ―which means each school will get about $100 to spend on addressing the problem of bullying. The spin put on this is that the DOE has already purchased a curriculum, so they are ahead of the curve and don’t need additional funding–?? In other words, they threw money at a one-shot deal, acquired what is probably a one-size-fits-all product (given the amount spent in relation to the number of public schools), and will apply it. We (the public) who were still present (over 2.5 hours after the ‘hearing’ began) were not allowed to ask who vetted the curriculum, who will deliver it, who will assess it, and why the all the data stating that only ‘whole school’ approaches are effective was not factored into NYC choices. Instead, we waited an additional 45 minutes, then were each given 3 minutes to state whatever it is we wanted the committee (3 politicians and a handful of young staff members) to hear.