Following the suicide of a Queens Village 12-year-old who took her life after being harassed, borough legislators have called on the city Department of Education to mandate anti-bullying training for students – as well as ensure offenders will be disciplined.
Bullying is a pervasive problem that plagues schools across the five boroughs, and the harassment has gotten so bad that children have taken their own lives, legislators said. Gabrielle Molina was 12 years old and a student at IS 109 in Queens Village when she committed suicide in late May after family members said she had been harassed by peers – both online and face to face. Police said she wrote about being bullied in the suicide note she left behind.
“Bullying is not a phase that children go through as a normal part of growing up,” Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said. “We live in a world where bullying has serious, harmful consequences. Too many children and teens have suffered for no good reason.”
Weprin recently joined with Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), and other city legislators to ask the DOE to do more to combat bullying. While the lawmakers said there have been a number of bills passed in recent years to address the problem, they said Molina’s death, as well as other student harassment cases, highlight that more needs to be done. They asked the DOE to mandate a prevention curriculum for all students in sixth through 12th grade and said educators should be required to complete professional development seminars that would teach them how to identify, respond to and report bullying incidents.
“I was a teacher for 25 years in the Department of Education, and I saw so many instances in which children were bullied,” Dromm said. “I had one child who was Sikh and had his turban pulled off. I had students who were bullied with the use of the word gay and teased because they were perceived to be different from other children.”
Additionally, Weprin and the other legislators said serious consequences must be enforced for individuals who have bullied their peers.
“A slap on the wrist is not enough,” Weprin said. “The DOE needs to adopt stronger disciplinary measures and clear consequences so that students will think twice before posting or commenting on a humiliating photo or online video of another student,” Weprin said.
By Anna Gustafson