Post submitted by Andy McNeill, HRC steering committee member
What came about from conversations during 2012 HRC Lobby Day with South Florida Congressman Hastings (D-F), Wilson, (D-F) and Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida), as well as Capitol Hill staffers regarding anti-bullying legislation came into bright focus and reality Wednesday night in South Florida. Over 400 students, administrators, parents and community activist took part in HRC South Florida’s 1st Annual Anti-Bullying Summit hosted by Sunrise Middle School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January 23.
The steering committee worked closely with HRC’s Welcoming Schools, their political contacts and the events team to pull off the Summit. During the development of the program, HRC brought on the Broward County School District (the 6th largest in the nation), the Broward County Sheriff’s department and six other partner organizations to assist in the promotion of the event.
"The anti-bullying summit was full of energy and enthusiasm. There were hundreds of students and their parents, teachers, community leaders, and all in our small group sessions brainstorming on how to stop bullying in our schools… you could tell from the group discussions how the students and their parents really accepted the challenge how to celebrate diversity," said event co-chair Rob Lopardo.
The content and agenda was a collaborative effort with the steering committee, HRC Welcoming Schools, The Broward County School Boards Office of Diversity, Cultural Outreach and Prevention, and the schools peer counselors and administrators. What was most impactful for HRC was the total inclusion of the LGBT message, while not diminishing the focus on other areas of bullying such as cyber, verbal and social alienation.
Backdropped against colorful artistry students had created on bullying, 20 facilitators took the parents and students through a list of scenarios, after watching the Sunrise Middle School Drama Club showcase a bullying play, "The New Kid." It was truly a night of active involvement from the entire school community.
From the political vantage, the summit allowed the steering committee to engage with the districts congressional offices getting letters of support and involvement. In addition, Mayor Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale brought the auditorium to its feet with his passionate message for acceptance and diversity.
Stephan Lampasso, Chair of the South Florida’s Political Committee, stated, “I was so pleased that Representative Hastings and Representative Frankel share our concern that all incidents of bullying must be addressed immediately, effectively, and that such behavior will not be tolerated. Mayor Seiler's support for a safe and equitable learning environment for all students is vital. The summit provided a new angle to approach our elected officials, and it worked.”