Your Story Needed for Civil Rights Commission ReportWednesday 20, April 2011
By Debra Chasnoff, President/Senior Producer | Latest News, LGBT
GroundSpark has learned that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will turn its attention to peer-to-peer bullying, harassment, and violence in schools this May—and your stories are wanted. Beginning with a day-long briefing on peer-to-peer violence in K-12 public schools on May 13th, the Commission’s report will examine bullying and other types of peer-to-peer violence where students are targeted due to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender, or LGBT-status. According to Commissioner Roberta Achtenberg, the event breaks new ground as the first time the Civil Rights Commission will host a hearing on an LGBT-related issue.
GroundSpark will have the opportunity to submit testimony, along with many experts in social sciences, mental health, education and law. Commissioner Achtenberg is making a special effort to encourage those touched by peer-to-peer violence targeted against LGBT youth (and those perceived to be so) to share their stories. The collected stories will form a permanent record built from the contributions of people across the country, and these personal narratives will be an invaluable resource, aiding the Commission in understanding the nature, pervasiveness, geographic spread, and negative outcomes of such violence. Stories shared in this way will also help to set the stage for expert testimony and filings from professional perspectives.
Stories should be submitted in writing with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for inclusion in the public record. The Commission defines “inter-student violence,” as any verbal and physical assaults, teasing, bullying and any other form of harassment. The letters need not be formal or in any particular format. Each author is encouraged to write in their own voice and to tell their story in the terms in which it was experienced. The Commission should learn of the personalities of the kids and families involved, the way things happened (or are still happening), what types of people were involved (other students, school staff, and/or others), and what impact these experiences are having on the student and for the rest of the family. Thoughts about what types of intervention might be helpful to address the causes could be important as well.
In order to humanize this issue as strongly as possible, families and individuals who are comfortable doing so are encouraged to attach a picture to the front of the letter. For those contributors who are not comfortable sharing their identity openly, they should use at least one initial to identify themselves and any people relevant to their stories since the letters will be submitted to the public record. It would be extremely helpful if writers who are maintaining anonymity could at least identify a region of a state in which they live (“Northern Maine,” or “Twin Cities Minnesota,” for example).
GroundSpark has been privileged over the years to see the power of your stories in action. We encourage stories about all forms of harassment, bullying and violence. Don’t be afraid to make concrete suggestions about how schools, parents, teachers and communities should respond—the Commission can learn from what went wrong as well as what went right.
The Commission’s final report, to be issued in September 2011, will discuss student needs, promising programs, jurisdictional issues, and the enforcement efforts of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Stories of how students, families, schools and communities are impacted by peer-to-peer bullying, harassment and violence are critical to the report’s effectiveness.
Letters should be sent, if possible, by May 1, 2011 for introduction into the Commission’s record in advance of the May 13 hearing in D.C. (the public record will remain open for 15 days following the hearing). The letter itself should be addressed to:
Kim Tolhurst, Esq., Acting General Counsel
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
624 Ninth St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
Please note that the envelope should be addressed and mailed to Commissioner Achtenberg’s special assistant, Alec Duell at:
c/o Alec Deull
3102 Krueger Road North, Tonawanda, NY 14120