Eastern District of Michigan Hosts Anti-Bullying Forums

In an effort to reduce youth violence, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan recently hosted a day-long series of anti-bullying forums throughout the district.  The programs provided information to students, school officials, and parents about the laws that protect children from harassment and bullying in public schools. 

Partnering with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of  Education, the State of Michigan, and community service agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office brought together law enforcement agencies and community service providers for this full day of forums at four locations. 

Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez
It Gets Better

“We have seen that harassment and bullying can lead to violence in schools,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said.  “We hope that education and prevention will result in schools where all of our children feel safe to learn.”

The first event addressed eighth graders at an Ann Arbor middle school, and featured a presentation by Anurima Bhargava, Section Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.  Ms. Bhargava led a discussion that followed a screening of the Civil Rights Division’s video entitled “It Gets Better,” focusing on the harm to all students that follow incidents of harassment and bullying in schools. 

The first event also featured a presentation by tenth-grader Rianna Johnson-Levy, a graduate of the middle school, who showed students real examples of bullying on Facebook.  Ms. Johnson-Levy explained how social media sometimes empowers students to say harmful words that they would not say to someone’s face.  In fact, she noted, cyberbullying can be more harmful than face-to-face confrontations because a message can be distributed to many people very quickly.   

The second event featured a discussion with Muslim and Arab-American community and school leaders at the Lebanese American Heritage Club in Dearborn.  The discussion focused on harassment and discrimination in schools based on religion, race, and national origin in a multi-cultural school environment.

The third event focused on gang activity, school violence and the educational needs of Detroit Public School students.  This program, which involved an interactive dialogue with high school students, was hosted at Youthville Detroit, a youth development and community change organization.

The fourth event, which took place at a suburban Detroit public library, provided a public forum to discuss harassment of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth.  The program included a panel of LGBT youth, who spoke about their experiences, as well as legal advice from Catherine Criswell, Regional Director of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and Judith Levy, Chief of the Civil Rights Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office received positive feedback about the forums from the community, applauding the focus on this issue and seeking assistance for students who have been subjected to bullying.