Over the past few years, individuals and groups around the country have pursued anti-bullying efforts in order to confront hostile environments in schools and the community. Similar to individuals within other marginalized communities, people with disabilities are often singled out by bullies because of physical, cognitive or psychiatric differences.
Anti-bullying advocates recently traveled to New Orleans for the “Dignity in Schools” national meeting
As part of recent pushes against bullying, Access Living is partnering with groups locally and nationwide to address bullying concerns and to make schools and communities safer for people with disabilities. Recently, Advance Youth Leadership Power, Access Living’s Youth Advocacy Group, teamed up with a national coalition called Dignity in Schools. The Dignity in Schools Campaign challenges the systemic problem of pushout in our nation's schools. Pushout refers to zero tolerance practices in school that stress punishment over education and often don’t account for things like disability. The Campaign advocates for the human right of every child to a quality education and to be treated with dignity, and promotes local and national alternatives to a culture of zero-tolerance, punishment and removal. Early in July 2011, AYLP member Marquita Forum and community organizer Candace Coleman traveled to Washington, DC to speak with Illinois Legislators about strategies to address concerns around pushout and bullying. Marquita and Candace spent two days in Washington, talking to staff at the offices of Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Daniel Lipinski about how pushout and bullying impacts the disability community.
In early October Access Living participated in Dignity in Schools’ National Action Week. During the week, Access Living hosted a roundtable discussion on Anti-bullying with youth from around the city. Twenty people participated and shared their thoughts and concerns about bullying. The conversation covered “What does bullying look like?” and, “How do we solve bullying?” According to Candace, “the discussion was an eye opening experience that probed the youth to take action.”
The work with Dignity in Schools will continue in December. From December 2nd through the 4th, Youth Advocate Marcy Peters and Candace attended the Dignity In Schools National Meeting in New Orleans. At the meeting, the group debriefed about 2011 milestones and victories and plan for 2012.