The New York City school district is putting $8 million toward initiatives meant to combat bullying.
The money will be used for a host of projects, including the creation of a portal that will allow families to report incidents of bullying, discrimination, intimidation or harassment online, and requiring schools to develop systems to make it easier to address bullying and for bullied students to transfer to another school.
The initiatives, announced by Chancellor Carmen Fariña earlier this fall, came about a month after a student fatally stabbed another student at a Bronx school.
The 18-year-old student who was charged in the stabbing at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation said that he had been bullied by classmates. And The New York Times reported in October that another student, now 12, attempted suicide in February after enduring bullying at the same school. The department told The Times that the school’s principal had been removed.
The education department’s anti-bullying initiatives include:
- A complaint portal that will allow families to report incidents of bullying, intimidation, and harassment online. Families would be notified of the outcome of the investigation within 10 school days. The portal won’t be up until 2019.
- $1 million in funding for the creation of student-led support groups such as Gender and Sexuality Alliance and Respect for All.
- Requirements for schools to create individual action plans to deal with instances where there are “several substantiated claims” of bullying against a student. Students who have been victims of one or more incidents of bullying or harassment will be able to request a transfer to another school.
- Targeted support for 300 schools with high rates of bullying.
- Community workshops and mental health and first-aid training for staff, students, and families on reducing and preventing bullying. Other workshops will also address restorative practices, cyber-bullying, and religious tolerance.
- Anti-bias and anti-bullying training for all school staff. All school staff members will be trained in January to identify bullying, provide support for victims, and create supportive environments for students, the department said.
“Bullying, harassment, and discrimination have no place in our schools and these reforms, including strengthened training for staff and families, a new family-facing reporting portal, and expanded mental health services, will deliver critical resources to prevent and address bullying in schools,” Fariña said in a statement announcing the initiatives. “We must work together to ensure that all school communities, particularly parents, are engaged as partners in this ongoing work.”
The new initiatives were announced the same day the department reported suspension data for the 2016-17 school year. According to the education department, the total number of out-of-school suspensions declined by 6.4 percent. School-related arrests also decreased by 8 percent, according to the department.
The department has been relying more on restorative practices at schools in recent years. And the department touted a reduction in crime in schools as it has expanded school climate and mental health initiatives.
But Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter group whose supporters are frequent critics of Mayor Bill de Blasio education policies, said at the time that the city needed to do more to address school safety than the measures it announced. In the past, the group has challenged the city’s statistics on school discipline and crime. It’s also sued the education department on behalf of 23 parents, alleging that their children have suffered abuse and harassment in the city’s schools.
“It’s long past time the city took steps to change what is a fundamentally broken system to address school bullying; this is what parents demanded more than eighteen months ago when they filed a class-action lawsuit and called for specific actions that the city is announcing today, including safety transfers and the bullying complaint portal,” the group’s CEO, Jeremiah Kittredge, said in a statement. “However, in order to truly keep children safe, the city needs to commit to the full set of reforms that parents have demanded through litigation, including a comprehensive and accountable system to comply with state and federal bullying laws.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.