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ADL Comments on Justice Department Plan to Address Cyberbullying

Posted: January 12, 2010

ADL submitted the following comments on the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Proposed Program Plan for fiscal year 2010, which included initiatives to collaborate with the US Department of Education on school safety issues. The League applauded OJJDP on their effort to address bullying and cyberbullying and provided background on ADL's related education programs and Cyberbullying Toolkit and Model Legislation.

 

  January 12, 2010

Mr. Jeff Slowikowski
Acting Administrator
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
810 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531

Re: Proposed OJJDP Program Plan/ Docket No. 1507
Comments Solicited under 229 FR 62821

Dear Mr. Slowikowski,

On behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, we write to offer our comments on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Proposed Program Plan for FY 2010.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was founded in 1913 "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all." Now the nation's premier human relations and civil rights organization fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, ADL defends democratic ideals, protects civil rights for all, and promotes intergroup and interfaith cooperation and understanding.

We especially welcome the OJJDP Proposed Plan focus on School-Related Prevention Programs and initiatives to coordinate and collaborate with the US Department of Education on school safety issues. Specifically, we applaud OJJDP's proposed collaborations to address and prevent bullying and cyberbullying.

In recent years, the League has become increasingly concerned about the issue of bullying and the growing issue of cyberbullying. Bullying is too-frequently motivated by hate, and some of the most serious cases of bullying that occur in schools are the result of bias based on sexual orientation, race, and religion.

Despite the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying, and the increasing coverage the issue receives in the media, many adults remain unaware of the problem due to lack of fluency in new technologies and lack of involvement in youth online activity.

The League has developed programming and curriculum for teachers, students and the community on how to recognize and respond to many forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.

ADL's cyberbullying program Trickery, Trolling and Threats: Understanding and Addressing Cyberbullying is a unique and innovative training for middle- and high-school educators, administrators, and student support personnel to respond effectively to cyberbullying and to promote a culture of e-safety and respect for diversity. The program is designed to educate participants about the features and impact of cyberbullying. It also provides practical information and opportunities for skill-building that will support school communities in developing comprehensive plans for preventing and taking action against cyberbullying and social cruelty in online forums. The program also motivates student populations to challenge cyberbullying in their schools and online communities.

In addition, Cyberbullying: Understanding and Addressing Online Cruelty is ADL's free curriculum for elementary, middle and high school educators to use with their students in their classroom to increase awareness about the problem of cyberbullying. Each lesson introduces age appropriate information and skills that encourage youth to think critically about Internet communication, develop empathy for others, respond constructively to cyberbullying and online aggression and interact safely on the Internet.

While the League's Education Division addresses the issue of bullying and cyberbullying from the perspective of arming communities with awareness and practical prevention skills, the League's Civil Rights Division has taken a lead in working with state legislatures to craft new, innovative bullying and cyberbullying prevention legislation. ADL believes that when a state passes a comprehensive anti-bullying bill, it provides mechanisms for students, teachers and families to learn about the dangers of bullying and cyberbullying and resources to combat it.

ADL has also drafted a model state anti-bullying law and is promoting it at the state and local level. This statute combines the best elements of existing laws, along with refinements to ensure that it is comprehensive and constitutional. Last year, ADL worked forcefully to garner community support and lobby state lawmakers in a successful effort to enact comprehensive anti-bullying prevention legislation in Florida. Currently, ADL is leading community groups in Massachusetts in support of a similar statute. In addition, ADL has undertaken a comprehensive review of existing state laws on the issue, to ensure that each state's anti-bullying statute is complete, effective, constitutional, and implemented.

In October, Present Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act. One important provision of the new law requires the FBI, for the first time, to collect data about hate crimes committed by and against juveniles. Studies show that a disproportionate number of perpetrators and victims of hate violence are juveniles.

Safe schools are ones in which all students feel like they belong, they are valued, and that they are physically and emotionally safe and secure. Bias-motivated youth violence, school harassment, and bullying pose significant threats to student safety, academic achievement, and the ability of schools to prepare tomorrow's citizens to live peaceably in a nation that is becoming increasingly diverse.

We welcome the commitment of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services' Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative to reduce and prevent all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying, in schools across the nation.

The League stands ready and able to assist OJJDP in implementing its Program Plan initiatives in this area.

 

Sincerely,

Deborah M. Lauter
Director, Civil Rights
Anti-Defamation League



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