GLAA urges full funding to implement school anti-harassment policyTestimony for
Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation
Budget Oversight Hearing on D.C. Public Schools
Friday, April 7, 2000
Chairman Chavous, Members of the Committee, and fellow citizens:
My name is Lukas Malek. I am the Vice President for Administration of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), the oldest continuously active gay rights organization in the country. All of you have received invitations to our 29th Anniversary Reception on April 27 and I hope to see you all there. I would also like to take this opportunity to invite all of the councilmembers and their staffs, as well as all of my fellow citizens, to come out and hear directly from our community's sexual minority youth. Next Saturday, April 15, Youth Pride Day will be celebrated at Dupont Circle Park from 12 noon until 5 pm.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today regarding the budget for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Last fall, we approached Superintendent Ackerman about the lack of an anti-harassment policy established in D.C. Public Schools. There were no repercussions for harassing a student on the grounds of his or her race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. In light of million dollar judgments against school districts for failing to protect their students from such behavior, GLAA felt that this was an imperative, not only for the welfare of our students, but also for the continued financial recovery of the District, that an effective, all-inclusive anti-harassment policy needed to be implemented.
I am pleased to announce that last Wednesday, March 29, Superintendent Ackerman signed a directive prohibiting harassment and sexual harassment. GLAA wants to publicly commend Ms. Ackerman for issuing a directive that makes it clear that harassment is wrong and the DCPS will not tolerate harassment by students, teachers or staff.
However, issuing a directive is a different beast entirely from having an effective, enforced policy. DCPS now shifts to the issue of training and implementation. They are starting a task force to look into developing training for the teachers and students so that they understand what is not allowed, and why it is not allowed. This task force, over the next couple of months, hopes to implement a policy for teachers to use in their training over this summer and for students in the coming school year.
Unfortunately, the current DCPS budget, being fiscally conservative, does not provide full funding for the training and implementation of policies such as this one. Whether this money comes under the training budget or from the Superintendent's Safer Schools Initiative, this money must be included in the DCPS budget. Without it, you only have a hollow policy that will do nothing more that invite lawsuits for failure to protect students and live up to DCPS's own policy. Then you will be asked to allocate funds for the settlement of those lawsuits.
On a related note, I must inform the Council that the District government still has a fiscal liability for failure to protect all of its students from harassment and discrimination. According to interpretations by the DCPS General Counsel and the Corporation Counsel's office, the recently issued directive by the Superintendent on Anti-Harassment, as well as the previously issued directive on Non-discrimination which mirror the Human Rights Law, do not apply to Charter Schools or the students who attend Charter Schools. The only way to effectively cover Charter Schools is through legislation by the City Council. Chairman Chavous, I urge you, on behalf of the students who attend Charter Schools now and in the future, please enact legislation to explicitly extend these protections to the Charter Schools.
Thank you and I am available to answer any questions that you may have.
[Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who was presiding over the hearing at this point, said that he had asked the Mayor earlier in the evening about the $15 million cut in safety infrastructure and how it would affect the students. He said that this was an example of where those cuts hurt the students. He then asked the DCPS staff that were still present at the hearing to find the money for the anti-harassment training and to have a proposal ready for the council by the following Wednesday.]