New York City schools are being asked to add one more lesson to the packed weeks before the end of the school year: about bullying.
In light of recent bias-motivated violence, including the murder of a 32-year-old gay man in the West Village this weekend, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Chancellor Dennis Walcott said all schools would be asked to hold at least one event before the end of the school year to educate students about hate crimes and bullying.
“I don’t know why it feels like we’ve taken a step backwards but that is the case,” Quinn said. “What we’re going to do is push forward and make sure we do the organizing, education, and public safety work we need to do to make sure we don’t go backwards.”
Quinn, who is vying to be the city’s first openly gay mayor and used to be the director of the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, reached out to Walcott to help implement the “emergency additions” to the city’s expectations for schools.
The Department of Education currently has a Respect for All week — the fourth annual event was in February — where schools are asked to use programs and curriculum to teach students to respect diversity and prevent bullying and harassment.
Between now and the end of the school year, Quinn said, schools will be asked to do at least one thing “to focus the student body against bullying.” Some examples of things schools could do include holding assemblies, spending class time talking about the issue or a school library highlighting certain books and holding reading circles, Quinn said. Each school can decide what type of action to take since they know their community better than the council and DOE, she added.
Walcott, who has spent recent days criticizing mayoral candidates for challenging the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, briefly attended Quinn’s press conference at City Hall before heading to Staten Island for another event. He said he met with the school staff and family of D’aja Robinson, the 14-year-old from Queens who was shot and killed by a stray bullet on a bus Saturday night. Police do not consider that killing to have been a hate crime.
Quinn said she’s focusing on schools to educate children about discrimination before they become adults and so that they can educate their parents.
Other organizations supporting the announcement include the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.