By Naeisha Rose
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced an $8 million investment in anti-bullying reforms for schools Monday at a hearing in City Hall as a response to two high school students being stabbed in the Bronx at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation a month ago. One student died and the other was hospitalized, according to police.
City Council Education Committee Chairman Daniel Dromm’s office (D-Jackson Heights) cited reports from student witnesses that blamed the stabbing on anti-gay bullying episodes that were not addressed by the school administration.
“Bullying remains a serious problem in our schools,” said Dromm, who is openly gay and was bullied throughout his youth and as an adult. “National data demonstrates that one of out every five students is bullied.”
The National Center for Education Statistics in 2015 stated that 21 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied during the school year.
“LGBTQ students, Muslim students and those who are overweight or have disabilities are disproportionately victimized,” Dromm said.
The investment will go towards an online Bullying Complaint Portal for families, community workshops on bullying prevention and reduction, Mental Health First Aid training for schools and communities, protections for students facing harassment, and funding for organizations like Gender and Sexuality Alliances and Respect For All clubs, according to schoo
“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. “We must work together to ensure that all school communities, particularly parents, are engaged as partners in this ongoing work.”
The funding will also go towards targeted support for 300 schools with high bullying rates for self-awareness, social awareness, and social-emotional support to train staff and support students, according to schoo
Schools will also have to highlight their Respect for All liaison, according to Dromm.
“Chancellor Regulation A-832 mandates that ‘each principal must designate at least one RFA liaison to whom reports by students or staff members of student-on-student biased-based harassment, intimidation and/or bullying can be made and who serves as a resource for students and staff on this issue and who is trained in human relations in the areas of race, color, creed, national origin, citizenship/immigration status, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression and weight ,” Dromm said.
Many students who attended the anti-bullying hearing and testified about their own harrowing experiences were unaware their school had an RFA.
To address that concern, Dromm sponsored Intro 1538, which would require the Dept. of Education to report information on its website regarding RFA liaisons at each school, including their names and contact information, according to his spokesman.
Chancellor Regulation A-832 also mandates that schools have a full time RFA who is easily accessible to students and available to them Monday to Friday.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose