Unfortunately, many young people are familiar with bullying. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) states on their website, “More than one third of Illinois students tell experts they feel unsafe while at school. A majority of students say they have been verbally harassed and nearly a quarter say they were physically harassed in the past year.”
In Illinois, the legislature is taking steps to prevent bullying. House Bill 5290, Illinois Schools Anti-Bullying Policy, was passed in the Illinois House (61-49) a few weeks ago. This bill will require every school district to have a policy against bullying. According to the State Journal-Register, the policy will include “forbidding children from making fun of others on the basis of physical appearance, socioeconomic class, academic status, pregnancy, parenting status, and homelessness.” The bill is sponsored by Representative Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago.
Candace Coleman, Access Living’s Youth Community Development Organizer, explained, “The law will promptly emphasize investigating and addressing bullying properly and using restorative justice to address it.”
Coleman and the youth programs at Access Living that she coordinates have been heavily involved with anti-bullying efforts. Access Living has been involved with this issue in order to ensure that disability language is included in the bill. Access Living has also participated in the planning procedures used to address bullying.
According to Coleman the next step is to support passage of the bill in the Illinois Senate as well as plan best practices for dealing with bullying.
In addition, on May 2, Access Living will participate in a news conference at City Hall to promote anti-bullying efforts. The conference is being organized by the High Hopes Coalition, a network of groups working to stop bullying.