Organizing for social justice and to stop bullying

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Sat, 03/23/2013 - 20:39

Supporters of the Stop Bullying Coalition held a first grassroots strategy meeting to support passage of a bill in the Massachusetts legislature, S604, A bill to protect citizens from bullying.

Jonathan Gale (Disability Law Center) led a lively phone conference. Residents from HUD-sponsored or local housing authority projects from Attleboro, Peabody, Salem, and Somerville shared their histories of bullying in their residential settings. We heard about bullying of individuals living with various disabilities, of elders, of veterans, and even hate speech; permitted to flourish because of ineffective or inappropriate management responses. And we were witness to the desparation that comes when there is no avenue of relief.

Gale, the Cross Disabilities Coalition Coordinator of the Disability Law Center, is an excellent guide to the advocacy process. From him, we learned that there is much work ahead to promote legislative relief through passage of S604, and we agreed to work together to support this bill.

Our immediate steps going forward

  • Develop and solidify coordination among sponsoring organizations.
  • Coordinate the work of research into the facts to demonstrate the scope of the problem.
  • Engage with leaders of tenants' organizations throughout the Commonwealth.
  • Everyone needs to reach out and call people to get them involved, and to create a telephone chain to spread the word. Each person should try to recruit 5 people, and each of the new people should go out and recruit 5 more!
  • Organize a campaign to call your state legislators in support of S604. Every phone call is important in demonstrating that citizens support this bill. How to make calls to support S604 (less than 10 minutes to make the calls)
  • Start planning to travel to Beacon Hill to meet with legislators.
  • Identify people who are willing to testify in support of the bill.
  • Our goals

    We in the Stop Bullying Coalition see the problem of bullying in mixed housing for the elderly and disabled as an equal opportunity destroyer of peace for everyone in the housing community: elders, people living with a disability, and even management. Hostility among individuals and groups sharing a living space is not necessary. People who use bullying and their targets are not natural enemies and in many cases could live together if management provided staff and resources to create an appropriate environment. Bullying emerges and thrives unless it is challenged and stopped. Preventing bullying requires trained and motivated management; educated, informed residents; and oversight. The cure is for bullying to be stopped so that everyone can live and work together.

    We therefore are working to develop a coalition in support of S604, including organizations that support tenants' rights, elders, and the disability community. As one participant remarked, "We need to restore social justice, we deserve and need a level playing field for elders and for people with a disability---people deserve to live in peace."

    What the bill S604 will do

    • A requirement for landlords and management to have and enforce policies on bullying; to involve tenants in the ongoing efforts; to provide access for tenants to an ombudsman, access to the courts, and assure mechanisms of external oversight and enforcement.
    • Support for education including the development and evaluation of materials and methods and support for dissemination through all media—print, online, and by qualified trainers.
    • Support for research into the causes and conditions leading to bullying, evaluation of remedial methods, and development and demonstration programs to create effective interventions.

    We invite everyone to join us in the effort to stop bullying and enable elders and people with differing disabilities to live in peace.