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D.C. Council considers school anti-bullying policy

But some charter school advocates are resisting efforts by the council to extend the legislation to those facilities, which were set up to be semiautonomous.

Michael F. Musante, director of government relations for the Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, said many of the city's 52 charter schools already have anti-bullying policies. Forcing additional regulations on them, Musante said, would run afoul of the spirit of the legislation that established charter schools in the city.

"One-size-fits-all legislation may be suitable for a school system like DCPS but makes no sense for the public charter schools," said Musante. He said bullying should be addressed "through school disciplinary codes that can be tailored to the unique circumstances of each school and student body."

Gray and Thomas questioned Musante's stance, arguing that all District youths need to be protected regardless of which school they attend.

But Spitzer said the legislation needs more scrutiny before the ACLU could endorse it. Specifically, Spitzer said the council should more clearly define what type of behavior constitutes bullying.

"Students, like other people, can't be fully protected from having their feelings hurt by what people may say," Spitzer said.

Bill Briggs, head of the D.C. Chapter of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, countered that verbal taunting can have a lasting impact on a young person. Council members were stunned into silence as Briggs recounted a phone call he recently received from the mother of a gay daughter.

"Her daughter was so tormented and harassed so many times at school, she went out and got pregnant just so people would assume she was heterosexual," Briggs said.

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