Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and the Commission on Black Men and Boys, led by former D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood, listened to harrowing stories about childhood bullying Nov. 20.

For Christian Phillips-Gilbert, 15, now a sophomore at Eastern High School, bullying began in middle school and is just now subsiding.

“They would call me names and I would cry,” he said. It went on for two years, he said, adding it was one of the reasons his grades dropped.

Although he said he did not tell his parents at first, Gilbert instead decided to talk to a school counselor about it. The counselor was able to help Gilbert make friends, and now he says, “I have a whole bunch of confidence in myself and I don’t get bullied anymore.”

Gilbert said he now believes that words can’t hurt him.

Billed as “a Candid Conversation with the Community on Preventing Bullying,” the roundtable is part of the drive by the city’s non-voting delegate in Congress to implement the anti-bullying law.

The roundtable brought out experts as well as community leaders who addressed ways to prevent bullying. Students and parents shared their stories.

Tameka Garner-Barry’s 9-year-old son Omar followed the proper protocol and told school officials when he began to experience bullying at Yu Ying Charter School in Northwest Washington.

Nothing was done until her son was forced to defend himself when he was attacked by two students in the classroom.

“This year alone has been one of the most difficult years for him,” Barry said. “I began to notice that his self-esteem was beginning to dwindle, he started walking with his head down and it was up to my husband and I to rebuild it back up.”

Barry feels that schools need to play an active role in preventing bullying.

Norton said students are now protected by the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012.

“This is a pretty large effort that has to be made to deal with bullying,” Fulwood said. “You have parents, educators and the community people affected by bullying, and it is going to take a lot of work to organize us talking more about how we can facilitate this issue.”


Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO