HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – A Suffolk County Legislature task force made up of local teenagers has released a set of recommendations for stopping bullying in schools just as Bullying Prevention Month kicks off in October.
The Suffolk County Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force, made up of residents between the ages of 16 and 18, has worked over the past year to build a comprehensive list of steps that can be taken at the state, county, and school district levels to help prevent bullying and cyberbullying in schools. In their report presented to the Suffolk County Legislature on Sept. 22, the task force members recommend changing state laws, creating an anti-bullying mobile app that allows students to report bullying and access resources, and encouraging schools to promote student-led anti-bullying clubs. The task force members also suggest that “push-in” programs and workshops, where speakers on bullying address one or two classes at a time, would be more effective than large presentations and assemblies.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one in five children has reported being bullied.
“Bullying remains a challenging public health issue today and it can become difficult to address as technologies evolve. What was once restricted to school grounds can now follow you home over social media, and the impact can continue well into adulthood,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco. “That is why it is so important for us to hear directly from young people about how bullying is impacting their lives. It has been a pleasure to hear the creative solutions the Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force has come up with on how to address these issues, develop tools and resources, educate people, and implement new laws. I couldn’t be prouder of these teenagers for taking the time to serve and to do the hard work needed to end bullying in our schools.”
This legislative task force was unique in that it was the first Suffolk County task force made up entirely of students. The members represented private and public high schools across Suffolk County, and many of them were either victims of bullying themselves or were leaders within their school’s student government.
“Working with the Suffolk County Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force for the past year has been an informative, enlightening, and encouraging experience. Our meetings have been a useful place to talk about the best ways to prevent bullying and how to make being in school a great experience,” said Devin Moore, a 16-year-old task force member from Bay Shore. “I started my anti-bullying organization, #RaceToSpeakUp, because I want to educate and empower the youth about the different types of bullying and show them that we do have a voice. We can speak up against bullying. Bullying prevention is a serious matter – one that can’t be ignored. I hope our leaders consider implementing these recommendations because they will make an impactful change in an effort to prevent bullying.”
The Suffolk County Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force was created in 2019 by then-Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory after he heard about Moore’s mission to help bullying victims after the teenager himself was bullied because of his race. With guidance from the nonprofit Long Island Coalition Against Bullying, the task force met to discuss challenges associated with bullying and pitch creative solutions to protecting their peers and decreasing bullying both in and out of school. Last year, the task force offered an idea to create a “Suffolk Stop Bullying Resource Guide” to help parents and children in grades K-12 who are dealing with the mental and physical impacts of bullying.
“I knew from the very first meeting that this group was something special,” said Joe Salamone, founder and executive director of the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying. “They came to these meetings prepared and ready to tackle tough issues and did it with poise, intelligence and maturity. These students were the model standard bearers for the most important stakeholders – students and children – and we can, should and must learn from their example. We are so proud of them and the recommendations they created and look forward to being a productive partner in their implementation.”
The Suffolk County Legislature has been a leader in working to end bullying. In 2010, lawmakers criminalized cyberbullying of minors, and in 2011 they established October as “Bullying Prevention Awareness Month” in Suffolk County. In 2014, Legislator Sarah Anker spurred the creation of Suffolk County’s bullying awareness website, www.SuffolkStopBullying.org, which provides anti-bullying resources for students, teachers and parents to prevent bullying in schools.
Legislator Tom Cilmi, the Minority Leader of the legislature, stated, “We know that addressing this ages-old issue is complicated, but it cannot be ignored. As someone who was verbally and physically bullied as a child, I have often spoken publicly about this issue. Sadly, bullying today can be much more persistent and pervasive; as we have seen, it all too often leads to tragic consequences. That’s why I was happy to support the creation of the Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force, and why I pledge my support as together we all work to educate, to protect, and ultimately to eradicate bullying altogether. I commend the members of this task force and thank them for their contribution to this vitally important effort.”
The Suffolk County Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force’s report can be found at: https://www.scnylegislature.us/DocumentCenter/View/73368/092020-Suffolk-County-Youth-Anti-Bullying-Task-Force-Final-Recommendations-Report-PDF. To watch the task force’s presentation to the Suffolk County Legislature, visit the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/licoalition.