D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) signed a new citywide anti-bullying policy into law on Friday, which is aimed at encouraging youths to report instances of harsh or discriminatory treatment.
Surrounded by city officials, youths and gay rights activists, Gray signed the bill shortly after 9:00 a.m. in his ceremonial office in the John A. Wilson Building.
The bill signing caps two years of work by Council members Michael D. Brown (I-At large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) to come up with legislation to address bullying. (Former D.C. council chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) also made the bill a priority.)
Although watered down from initial proposals, the council approved legislation in May that creates a task force charged with developing anti-bullying policies for city-funded areas where youths congregate, such as recreation centers and swimming pools.
It also establishes reporting and investigative guidelines for following up on reports of bullying, and establishes an appeals process. The bill also bars retaliation against someone who reports or cooperates with a bullying investigation.
“Today is a landmark day for our city’s youth,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said at the bill signing. “This legislation about to be signed really is the most robust in the nation.”
During the ceremony, Gray stressed it’s also time for adults do more to set the tone that bullying is not acceptable. To prove his point, Gray said he no longer wants to hear the term “bully pulpit.”
“Why would we honor a bully by giving it a pulpit?” said Gray, in a serious tone. “You won’t hear me using it…There will no longer by a bully pulpit in the District of Columbia.”
Former President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term shortly after the turn of the last century. At the time, according to Websters Dictionary, “bully” meant “excellent” or “first rate.”
Gray, however, said times have changed.