Anti-Bullying and Harassment Week Will Kick Off on March 8 and Run through March 12, 2010

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that the Department of Education is launching its first-ever “Respect for All Week,” designed to focus all City schools on the importance of promoting respect for diversity and fostering inclusive learning environments for their students. The Department’s “Respect for All” initiative is New York City’s effort to combat bullying and harassment based on ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other characteristics. The Chancellor and Speaker were joined at PS 24 in Brooklyn by New York City Council Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson, New York City Council Member Sara M. Gonzalez, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA) First Vice President Randi Herman, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Vice President for Special Education Carmen Alvarez, UFT Vice President for Career and Technical Education Sterling Roberson, and PS 24 Principal Christina Fuentes, along with many public officials, religious leaders, and community partners who collaborated with the Department in developing the Respect for All initiative.

“We have a responsibility to provide every student in New York City with a safe and inclusive learning environment,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Teaching our students to embrace diversity is essential to preventing hate among future generations. For the past two years, we’ve been working with advocates and community members to expand our Respect for All program. This week is part of our long-term effort to make this subject matter part of our school culture. We will use this opportunity to build awareness of this issue and the tools that are available to educators, students, and parents as they seek to eliminate bias-based harassment in our schools.”

“Establishing a safe, respectful learning environment is a prerequisite for student success,” Chancellor Klein said. “I hereby designate March 8-12 as our first annual Respect for All Week and ask our City’s educators to plan special activities and lessons to promote respect for diversity in their schools. I thank Speaker Quinn and our community partners—Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Operation Respect, Anti-Defamation League, YES Program, and Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility—for their continued collaboration in this important work.”

Respect for All Week is designed to focus each school’s attention on sustaining safe, supportive, and inclusive environments, providing an opportunity to highlight and build upon their existing efforts to promote respect for diversity and prevent bias-based harassment and bullying. To support schools in this important work, the Department’s Office of School and Youth Development already has made many resources available to principals and school staff members—including sample lesson plans and connections to community organizations that offer programs and free curricular resources supporting the goals of Respect for All. The Department recently provided principals with suggested activities to guide their Respect for All week planning and will continue expanding the availability of such resources to support implementation of those programs throughout the school year.

This push to strengthen and encourage anti-bullying programs in schools across the City is the latest step in an extensive joint outreach effort between the Department, City Council, UFT, CSA, and community-based organizations. Joint letters from Chancellor Klein, Speaker Quinn, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, and CSA President Ernest A. Logan were distributed to principals, teachers, and parents across the City earlier this month. The UFT and CSA will continue to communicate the importance of this issue and the goals of RFA Week to members through emails, Web sites, and newsletters. City Council Members will play an active role in Respect for All Week, visiting schools in their Districts and participating in programs designed to prevent bias, bullying, and harassment. Many community-based organizations have reached out to schools to strengthen existing partnerships and develop new relationships that will have a positive impact lasting far beyond Respect for All Week.

“Students should have the right to pursue, and we have an obligation to provide, an education without the fear and distraction of bullying,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “The Respect for All programs can help make sure that our schools are safe havens for all our students and educators.”

“First and foremost, let’s remember the ‘All’ in Respect for All,” CSA President Ernest A. Logan said. “The effort to develop respect in our students for all members of the community is essential and includes not only respect for people of all races, religious faiths, physical abilities, and genders, but also respect for people of all ages. That works in reverse as well, for we must encourage educators, parents, and other adult members of the community to show equal respect for all groups of people including students. The Chancellor’s campaign makes an important statement about our need to live in a civil society.”

“Respect transcends tolerance and is the very underpinning of a diverse society,” New York City Council Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson said. “Our City will be a better place if our youth grow up with real respect for each other. I commend the Department of Education for emphasizing this as an important part of our public school studies.”

“The Respect For All Initiative will establish New York City as a national leader in efforts to stop bullying in our schools,” New York City Council Member Sara M. Gonzalez said. “How can students learn if they feel discriminated against or threatened? By using mandated reporting and investigation guidelines, tracking and monitoring all bias incidents, increasing training opportunities for teachers, providing additional guidance for principals, and giving parents the opportunity to review principals’ Respect for All plans, we will be creating a safer and more inclusive learning environment. At the same time, we will be instilling a most valuable life lesson to children at a young age—that bullying, harassment, and discrimination are not acceptable in today’s society.”

The Department will kick off Respect for All Week at PS 24: The Dual Language School for International Studies in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Nearly half of the school’s students are English language learners. PS 24 is a Title I school, and 23 percent of students receive special education services. Principal Christina Fuentes has made it a priority to foster a culture of respect and inclusion in the school, partnering for many years with the Morningside Center for Social Responsibility to develop students’ social-emotional learning and conflict resolution skills. PS 24 is widely recognized as a model school for its work in this area, and later this week, the Fund for the City of New York will award Principal Fuentes its prestigious Sloan Award for Public Service.

During Respect for All Week, students citywide will take part in a broad range of activities and special programs, such as school-wide presentations, performances and art projects, interactive classroom workshops, peer education, and student-led poster campaigns. At PS 24, for example, students will participate in Diversity Panels where student-leaders share stories of past struggles with bullying and harassment, while also discussing how they were able to overcome those challenges. Other students will participate in “4Rs (Reading, Writing, Respect, and Resolution)” workshops, which integrate conflict resolution directly into the school’s language arts curriculum, simultaneously building students’ literacy and conflict-resolution skills.

“I applaud the Chancellor’s firm commitment to promoting Respect for All as an essential foundation for life and learning in our schools,” said Tom Roderick, Executive Director of the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. “Morningside Center is honored to be a partner in this critical effort.”

“We applaud the Department of Education for recognizing the importance of the ongoing project of providing safe and effective learning environments for all students,” Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Helping educators to focus on this work is crucial for ensuring that all students receive the support and respect they need to thrive in school. As a lead partner in the Respect for All program, GLSEN looks forward to continued collaboration with the Department to strengthen its efforts to address bias of all kinds in New York City schools.”

“We believe that Respect for All Week is an opportunity for all of us to focus on very specific ways that we can build a culture and climate of respect in our schools,” said Mark Weiss, Education Director of Operation Respect. “We are very proud to partner with the Department of Education and are pleased to support this important effort. Operation Respect offers music and curriculum materials free of charge that can support school activities during Respect For All Week and throughout the school year.”

“We salute the Department of Education, under the leadership of Chancellor Klein, for its unwavering commitment to making schools safer and more inclusive for all New York City students,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) New York Regional Director Ron Meier said. “ADL stands proudly as a key partner in the Respect for All Initiative, and as we look to the future, such programs will remain vital to ensuring that diversity and mutual respect continue to be hallmarks of the New York City public school system.”

“I often remind students at commencement ceremonies and during our ‘Respect’ events here in Brooklyn that we all must learn to respect life, respect ourselves and respect one another,” Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said. “When anyone is harassed or attacked because of his or her ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or anything else that makes us each unique, we are all attacked. Bravo to Chancellor Klein, Speaker Quinn, and the Respect for All Week partners for helping to educate our children and their parents to see that as different as we are, there is one thing that we all want, one thing that we all need, and one thing that we all deserve—and that is respect.”

“We applaud the Department of Education for its Respect for All initiative,” said Jenny DeBower, Director of Youth & Family Services at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community Center. “Every week we see youth who are being harassed at school for being LGBT. Respect for All sets a standard for schools in creating safety for LGBT youth, and provides a resource for youth to seek help if it is needed. It is an important first step in ensuring that all LGBT youth or any youth seen as ‘different’ has a safe learning environment.”

This year, the Department of Education built on its commitment to the Respect for All initiative by requiring more school-based staff members to attend trainings so they are better prepared to confront and prevent negative behaviors. The Department provided principals with additional guidance in creating rigorous anti-bullying plans and implemented new measures to hold them accountable for enforcing those plans. Efforts to combat bullying and harassment will now factor into a school’s Quality Review, and last month, the Department released findings from its first annual audit of bias-related bullying and harassment incidents in the City’s public schools. That report provides baseline data against which the Department can measure future progress in preventing bias-related incidents.