Commission on Bullying Starts Work

  • Landmark event
  • First meeting results
  • Working groups and outreach
  • Appreciation for your support
  • Call for advice and action

In Boston, Massachusetts, on Thursday, May 25, 2017 the Commission on Bullying, the first commission in the nation to address the problem of bullying of elderly and disabled persons in residential settings, was called to order by Chairwoman Linn Torto. It was a landmark moment. In that meeting of the Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-Family Housing, pursuant to Chapter 2 of the Resolves of 2016, we began the challenging work of finding ways to prevent bullying of tenants in public and subsidized multi-family housing; the Commission expects that the findings may also apply to family housing.

For the Stop Bullying Coalition, this was an important milestone on a journey of advocacy that began over five years ago. Demonstrating the vitality of democracy and the potential for persistent advocacy, this moment rewards and celebrates your continued support. Now we must renew our efforts to participate in the work of the Commission, and then to advocate for the implementation of the findings when they are ready at the end of this year. I am counting on you for your advice, input, and help.

The Commission members represent key legislative committees, administrative agencies of the Commonwealth, the Attorney General and a legal advocacy agency, citizen advocacy groups, and residents of public and subsidized multi-family housing.

Among those attending were representatives of MassHousing, the disability community, the Chinese-American community, MassNAHRO (managers of DHCD housing). The LGBT aging community will be represented. Among the observers were legislative staff members of two of the supporters of the enabling legislation, Johanna Wakelin for Senator Joan Lovely and Michael Searles for Representative Ted Speliotis.

I believe that the combined experience of those in the Commission room can make a real breakthrough in understanding the causes and appropriate remedies for bullying in multi-family housing. Many differing perspectives can help us to understand all the dimensions of the problem, and then help us craft remedies that will enable progress.

I was honored to be in the room with leaders representing such a broad range of experience and expertise. And gratified that all are aware of the importance of this problem, eager to find solutions, and willing to contribute to the work of the Commission.

WORKING GROUPS

Chairwoman Linn Torto quickly organized a framework for the work of the Commission:

Robin Krawczyk (Jewish Family & Childrens Services) and Michael Kane (Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants) will lead a working group on Best Practices. I have been appointed to lead a working group on Conditions and Prevalence. I have been reaching out to members of the Commission for advice and assistance, and they are being very supportive and helpful, and I am learning a lot as we go. Matthew Berg from the office of the Attorney General will work on raising public awareness and will update the Commission on Consumer Protection and other laws that can provide relief to victims, and coordinate with the AG's community outreach programs.

OUTREACH

Engaging stakeholders and public education are important tasks for the Commission. This outreach will have three elements: through groups and agencies; via a web page; and through hearings.

  • The Commission will reach out to spread the word and seek input through a variety of groups and agencies, including MassNAHRO, DHCD, Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, the community outreach program of the Attorney General, and more.
  • The commission has a web page on the Official Website of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). It will provide updates, notices, agendas, and may later have a comments section for the public. http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/commissions-and-initiatives/commonwealth-…
  • The legislation that created the Commission mandates hearings in various parts of the Commonwealth. The Commission will align efforts with the ongoing Olmstead Planning Process which will hold listening sessions, during which testimony about the work of the Commission will also be heard. The Olmstead Planning Process deals with the responsibility of the Commonwealth to enable people living with disability to live in the community, rather than in an institution. The goal of that process is to develop a revised Olmstead Plan that will provide a roadmap for supporting the housing and service needs of persons with disabilities regardless of age. http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/commissions-and-initiatives/commonwealth-…

The first hearing for the Commission will take place in the framework of the listening session for the Olmstead Planning Process on June 26th at One Ashburton Place, 21st Floor, Boston MA from 9am to 12 pm.

THANK YOU

I thank the partners of the Stop Bullying Coalition, including Michael Kane and the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants; Mary Margaret Moore and Shawn McDuff of the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, Inc; and Jack Cooper and Susan Bonner, Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants. We owe our progress to the willing support of our many legislative partners, including leading sponsors Senator Joan Lovely and Representative Brad Hill; the Senate and House leadership including Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Representative Ted Speliotis; the members and Chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing, including Representative Kevin G. Honan and Senators Linda Dorcena Forrry and James Eldridge. Representative Tom Walsh and so many representatives and senators (as well as local elected officials and Senior Center staff) from the north shore and throughout the Commonwealth were so helpful.

When Governor Baker signed the enabling legislation, he confirmed the support of the Commonwealth for the well-being of all citizens. Thank you, Governor!

Thanks to my two friends, Bonny Zeh who has been an integral part of the work from the start, and Jonathan Gale who has provided advice and support. And thanks to the other friends and supporters who can't be named here.

My gratitude goes to each of you for your advice, support, and advocacy, and for teaching me how to move the process forward and working together to make it happen. And now, let's get to work!!

WE NEED YOUR HELP

Chairwoman Torto has encouraged the participation and discussion of all with an interest or expertise to contribute, and I extend her offer to each of you. Please contact me with your input. If you have any issues that should be addressed or ideas for solutions, kindly let me know, and I will share that within the Commission. You may also testify and you very likely be able to submit written testimony, I will keep you informed on procedures.

My working group on Conditions and Prevalence needs information to guide the research on conditions: what conditions favor bullying, what conditions suppress it? Some communities have bullying, others are bully-free. My goal is to better understand the differences. I'm trying to use the differences to sort out the conditions and causes leading to bullying, or to healthy community. So I am looking for:

  • bully-free communities
  • communities with bullying
  • communities that have transitioned, say from bullying to bully-free
Please contact me with your suggestions of such communities.

http://StopBullyingCoalition.org/contact

Thank you for what you do.

Jerry

Jerry Halberstadt, Coordinator, Stop Bullying Coalition; Commissioner, Commission on Bullying

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