Today we are many who are advocating for legislation to stop bullying of elderly and disabled residents, but two years ago I was a lone advocate. With your help and advocacy we in the Stop Bullying Coalition have enlisted twenty sponsors of two antibullying bills and we have achieved momentum towards passage of legislation early in this session. And a growing awareness and concern about human and civil rights motivates other bills that address problems of safety and wellbeing in housing or protection from bullying in the workplace.
In 2013, I petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to provide relief from bullying of elderly and disabled residents living in public and subsidized housing. Sponsored by Senator Joan Lovely, my bill, based on the school bullying legislation, became S604, but despite our positive reception by the Joint Committee on Housing, it was not approved.
We then replaced the bill with S2329, a resolve with strong bipartisan support sponsored by the Joint Committee on Housing, to create a commission on bullying. Although S2329 passed the Senate in the last hours of the 2013-2014 session, it died in the House. This is considered exceptional progress for a new bill and created a platform for renewed efforts in the current 2015-2016 session.
We in the Stop Bullying Coalition—including the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann and the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants—need your continuing support to help advance our legislative advocacy to protect people living with age or disability from bullying
SD442—resolve creating a commission
SD442: Resolve Creating a Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-Family Housing
SD442 (last year's S2329) has been sponsored by Senator Joan Lovely in the new session and now has eight cosponsors. This resolve to create a legislative study commission has significant momentum and key legislative leaders plan to advance it quickly towards passage early in the current 2015-2016 session. The commission would engage a wide range of stakeholders, legislative leaders, key administrative departments, and advocates representing residents. The commission would prove an effective way to resolve conflicting interests and ideas, identify underlying causes and possible remedies, and lead to a fundamental solution of the problems giving rise to bullying.
HD3228—an act to prevent bullying
Representative Paul R Heroux, from Attleboro, Massachusetts, submitted a bill on bullying, HD3228: An Act to Prevent and Respond to Bullying of Elderly and Disabled Residents of Public or Privately-Owned, Subsidized Multifamily Housing Developments.
Although S604 was not passed by the Joint Committee on Housing in the 2013-2014 session, advocates and legislators had worked to improve it (Making a law to stop bullying is not like making sausage!) and it has been submitted as HD3228, sponsored by Paul Heroux and cosponsored by nine others.
The goal of HD3228 is to provide a system of prevention and remedy that can quickly provide relief.
HD3228 would require landlords and managers to act so as to prevent and remedy bullying in the residential environment. The bill is framed as a law that identifies prohibited actions and penalties for infractions, but it also creates a framework for training and education so as to encourage conformity with behaviors that would reduce and eliminate bullying.
HD3228 would require owner/managers to work with residents to develop plans, to train and educate staff and residents, to receive and act on reports of bullying, and to discipline transgressors for infractions. Oversight would be provided by the Public Safety Division of the Commonwealth's Attorney General's Office. This office, in consultation with a number of agencies, experts, and citizens would publish model plans to guide programs.
HD3228 is in many respects modelled on the school bullying law, M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37O, but adapted to the residential context. The bill recognizes that everyone who lives or works in the residential setting must be engaged and responsible to prevent and remedy bullying, and makes owner/managers, staff, and others working in or visiting the premises, as well as residents, partners in a community effort addressing bullying.
Other current bills on bullying and residential violence
HD 3515, task force on safety in public housing
Sponsored by Representative Diana DiZoglio, D3515 - An Act establishing a task force on elderly and disabled persons residing in public housing.
Possibly motivated in part by the murder of three elderly persons by a younger, disabled person living in public housing, the proposed task force would seek ways to "...ensure the safety and welfare of elderly and disabled persons residing in public housing..." The task force would meld the expertise of departments concerned with housing, including directors of housing authorities, with health and human services, and involve psychologists with expertise on "at-risk mental illness patients."
While we cannot know the circumstances of the tragic murders of three elderly persons by a neighbor, in housing as well as in other institutional settings the impact of bullying and mobbing can lead to personal harm and even in extreme instances, to murder.
Healthy Workplace Bill
According to David Yamada, the Healthy Workplace Bill has garnered fifty-eight legislative sponsors and cosponsors in the current legislative session, up from only one in the 2009-2010 session.
"The Healthy Workplace Bill creates a legal claim for bullying targets who can establish that they were subjected to malicious, health-harming behavior. It also provides defenses for employers who act preventively and responsively with regard to bullying and includes provisions to discourage frivolous claims."—The Healthy Workplace Bill
Sponsors and cosponsors
Sponsor and cosponsors for SD442, the commission on bullying
Joan B. Lovely, Second Essex; Bradford Hill, 4th Essex; Leah Cole, 12th Essex; William N. Brownsberger, Second Suffolk and Middlesex; Barbara L'Italien, Second Essex and Middlesex; Bruce E. Tarr, First Essex and Middlesex; Richard J. Ross, Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex; James M. Murphy, 4th Norfolk; Jason M. Lewis, Fifth Middlesex
Sponsor and cosponsors for HD3228, the act on bullying
Paul R. Heroux, 2nd Bristol; Evandro Carvalho, 5th Suffolk; Marjorie C. Decker, 25th Middlesex; Colleen M. Garry, 36th Middlesex; Carlos, Gonzalez, 10th Hampden; John W. Scibak, 2nd Hampshire; Benjamin Swan, 11th Hampden; Bruce E. Tarr, First Essex and Middlesex; Paul Tucker, 7th Essex; Chris Walsh, 6th Middlesex
Partners of the Stop Bullying Coalition
The Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann Inc. (ILCNSCA) is a service and advocacy center run by and for people with disabilities. "Services and Advocacy for an Independent Life" ILCNSCA supports the struggle of people who have all types of disabilities to live independently and participate fully in community life.
The Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, a branch of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, is a multi-cultural, tenant-controlled alliance of tenant organizations in privately-owned, multifamily HUD-assisted housing. Hundreds of tenant associations representing thousands of tenants in every region of the country are already involved, working together to preserve affordable housing, protect tenants' rights, and promote tenant ownership and control.
Michael Kane, Executive Director
Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants
Mary Margaret Moore, Executive Director
Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann