Category Archives: Bullying

New Occasional Paper: C.R.I.M.E. Teens Project

The Taskforce is happy to announce the release of our latest Occasional Paper, by youth and adult allies at the C.R.I.M.E. Teens Project!

The C.R.I.M.E. Teens Project (Compassion, Respect, Inspiration, Motivation, Empathy) is a grassroots, youth led violence prevention program.  Since its inception in 2009, the C.R.I.M.E. Teens have worked toward multiple achievements, most notably presenting to hundreds of elementary, middle school, and professional populations through an adolescent-centric perspective of community, school, relational, and familial violence, and authoring and publishing a book targeted to educators and direct service professionals on how to better understand the youth experience of violence.

This paper is a written collaboration between the C.R.I.M.E. youth and the adult supporters to dive deeper into the critical issues of violence against young girls and women, particularly focusing on cyber bullying, relational violence, and teen dating relationships.  The young women of the C.R.I.M.E. Teens also provide personal narratives of their own experience with complex trauma and violence and their stories of resilience and advocacy to aid other young girls and women in their own recovery.

In the words of one of the program’s youth,

“The violence rate toward and between women is increasing in Chicago neighborhoods. We have all witnessed violence in our own ways. We want to talk about how we experienced violence and what we have learned from it.  We are a group of teens trying to stop violence and help communities come together as one. As youth, people think just because we are teens, we don’t really CARE, but we do; we want to use our voice to help make change.”

You can read the paper by C.R.I.M.E. Teens here.


If you’re wondering what the mayoral candidates think about our recommendations….

For one thing, you won’t get an answer from Rahm Emanuel or Gery Chico, both of whom declined the invitation to participate in a candidate’s forum on violence against women, girls and LGBTQ youth.  The forum was held last night, co-sponsored by several of our partner organizations – Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, Rape Victim Advocates, Center on Halsted and CAASE – as well as the Chicago Foundation for Women.

Once you were able to get past the odd terms used for the LGBTQ community — Carol Moseley Braun referred to “nontraditional people”, and William “Dock” Walls insisted he was referring instead to panhandlers when he used the phrase “people with unusual lifestyles” — there was some useful information on how they feel about our recommendations to end violence against girls.


One of the Taskforce recommendations is for Chicago Public Schools, and the candidates were asked if they support it:

“The CPS policy on Dating Violence (08-0625-P02) currently does not set requirements for dating or sexual violence prevention education, but states that teachers “may” access lesson plans and partner with local anti-violence organizations. This should be changed to a requirement.”

So what did they have to say?

Miguel del Valle was the first to answer, and he said: “Absolutely.”  He added that the Board of Education needs to adopt the policy, and make sure the topics will be addressed in an “appropriate manner.”  Asked to define this further, he said he meant in the appropriate classes, and with a range of methods from counseling, to group discussions, to traditional classroom work.  He stressed the need for a mechanism to ensure discussion and student participation.

William “Dock” Walls agreed that this was necessary and said that he saw it as part of civics education.  Putting aside the more specific discussion of teen dating and sexual violence, he spoke at length about the need for civics education, to build stronger citizens who will “understand boundaries.”

Carol Moseley Braun felt the issue was “more complicated.”  She stressed that there is a lack of school nurses at Chicago Public Schools, with 1 nurse for every 725 students, and that remedying this should instead be the focus.  She referred to the “uphill battle” to get sex education in our schools, and felt that making education on these issues mandatory would be making it a “poison pill.”  Her answer instead is to restore the proper number of nurses at schools, and make the teen dating violence and sexual violence curriculum part of comprehensive sex ed – with an option for families to have their children “opt out” if they are opposed to the classes.

Patricia Van Pelt Watkins agreed with the recommendation, and spoke of the need for subjects to be interrelated.  “If you put the students in a room and give them a dose, they won’t absorb it.  It needs to be part of their lifestyle, so it sticks with them.”  She also stressed professional development and in service learning for staff.

Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico declined the invitation to attend the candidates’ forum to discuss these issues.


When the Taskforce discussed bullying in our Roundtable discussion, the organizations unanimously agreed that implementing anti-bullying legislation need to be tied to restorative justice practices.  Our goal is not to have young people kicked out of school or criminalized.  Our goal is safety.  Here’s our recommendation:

The Task force supports implementation of the Illinois Safe Schools Act and encourages the implementation of Restorative Justice practices to curtail bullying in schools, when appropriate, rather than criminalization of young people. We understand that the organizations that proposed and advocated for this Act share these values.

So I listened carefully when the candidates were asked how they would implement anti-bullying legislation in Chicago Public Schools.

Now, here the candidates split.  Miguel del Valle and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins both committed to the use of restorative justice practices.

On the other hand, Carol Moseley Braun and William “Dock” Walls both committed to using zero tolerance policies.  Here’s a quote from Walls:  “Zero tolerance with absolute certainty has to be the mandate of Chicago Public Schools.”

Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico declined the invitation to attend the candidates’ forum to discuss these issues.

The Taskforce does not endorse any particular candidate; we are committed to making sure the public is informed about these issues.  Wherever you stand on these issues, we urge you to go out and vote, and have your voice be heard!


Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Bullying, Public policy, Schools, Violence


On the loss of young women’s lives

Just 2 weeks after writing about Samantha Kelly’s tragic suicide comes news of two more young women driven to suicide after sexual assault.

First, here is news from the Chicago Tribune about Elizabeth Seeberg, a freshman at St. Mary’s College in Indiana:

According to a Chicago Tribune investigation, Notre Dame is refusing to publicly acknowledge that one of its football players allegedly sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman from Northbrook, who later committed suicide. Elizabeth Seeberg was a freshman at neighboring St. Mary’s College when the assault reportedly happened inside a dorm room August 31.  She reported it to police the next day and Seeberg was interviewed by police.  Seeberg provided two written statements and pointed out the football player.  The football player remains uncharged and is still on the Notre Dame football team.

And down in San Antonio, Texas, we learn that Beatrice Delgado, a 17-year old, committed suicide after reporting that she had been sexually assaulted.  The girl, who reported that she had been “tied up, beaten and raped” initially sought medical treatment but then asked to be taken home instead, saying that she felt traumatized and didn’t want to face the medical exam alone.  There, she hanged herself in the garage.  The family is blaming the police officer, who they say refused to provide transportation to the hospital after dropping Beatrice off at home.

Let’s just take a moment to sit with that.  3 suicides in less than 3 weeks of young women who said they had been sexually assaulted, turned to systems for help, and were let down.

We have all been saddened — and prompted to action — upon reading in the papers about LGBTQI youth committing suicide under a torrent of bullying and systemic oppression.  The Taskforce is partnering with youth-driven organizations across Chicago to draw attention to real solutions to make schools safer for LGBTQI youth, and to create positive and supporting communities.  Early next year, we will be issuing specific recommendations for the city, county and state.

At the same time as we take action to support LGBTQI youth, we need to challenge the simplified media message that we’ve been presented with.  In all of the analysis of what leads young people to suicide, where is the discussion of the role of sexual violence?  Where is a discussion of intersectionality, of the ways that various forms of oppression intersect in the lives of young people, leading these particular youth to suicide?  And what systems do we need to put in place to combat this oppression and support young people?  If we do not ask these questions, we will never reach the solutions we are looking for.  Instead of solutions that target the root causes of violence, and that look at the complex and interrelated ways that young people experience violence, we will be left only with the message that “it gets better.”

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Posted by on November 29, 2010 in Bullying, Sexual assault, Suicide


When systems fail: Samantha Kelly’s suicide

If you have not seen the news from Michigan this week, the suicide of 14 year-old Samantha Kelly in Detroit  is a tragedy that should make us all pause and reflect.  Samantha took her own life due to severe and repeated bullying after she told authorities that a fellow student had raped her.  This series of acts of violence that claimed the life of a young woman could have been avoided, but system after system failed her.

It’s clear that one system that failed her was the news media, which revealed her identity to her fellow students by interviewing her mother on TV.  Here’s Maria Miller, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office:

“Although the child’s face was not seen, when the mother was interviewed, essentially the child’s identity was revealed,” Miller told the News. “After the broadcast, it is our understanding that the child was harassed at school.”

Harassed at school, harassed online, and even now – after her death – the target of taunts and violent imagery on facebook.  The importance of respecting survivors’ confidentiality cannot be overstated, and here is the ultimate example of the harm done when this does not happen.  There is no reason that this young woman should have ever faced the questions, hostility and harassment that she experienced at her school.   Nobody should ever have known, if she did not choose to share her story.

And as Samantha reported to the police that she had been raped, and then began to experience bullying by her classmates, where was her support system?  What was in place to ensure that the young woman making these serious allegations would be supported at her school?  Did anyone in a position of authority turn to local sexual assault agencies to provide support?  Were programs in place to provide peer support in her community? Were staff at her school adequately trained to handle an escalating situation?  Unfortunately, while the press did share her identity, and has covered this latest in bullying suicides, it has failed to ask these important questions and so has missed the point.  Even if there were adults who did their best to intervene, we can be sure that she didn’t receive the support at all systemic levels that she desperately needed, and we need to establish safety nets for young women in our communities.

And now the criminal legal system has failed Samantha as well.  The case has been dismissed, as prosecutors say they cannot proceed without Samantha’s testimony.  With the criminal legal system the only avenue of redress offered to survivors, the case is now officially closed.  We’re left with Samantha’s mother’s words:

“My daughter did not get any justice before this and she ain’t getting justice now.”


Posted by on November 13, 2010 in Bullying, Media, Sexual assault, Suicide


New data on electronic aggression

The Cyberbullying Research Center has posted the results of new research showing alarming rates of electronic dating violence — “emotional or psychological harm in a romantic relationship perpetrated through the use of computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices.”
Although the data is from the southern US, and not Chicago, the statistics are worth noting:

10% of youth said a romantic partner has prevented them from using a computer or cell phone.

• 6% of boys and girls say their romantic partner posted something publicly online to make fun of, threaten, or embarrass them.

• 10.4% of boys and 9.8% of girls said they received a threatening cell phone message from their romantic partner.

• 5.4% of boys and 3.4% of girls said their romantic partner uploaded or shared a humiliating of harassing picture of them online or through their cell phone

You can read more here.

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Posted by on November 2, 2010 in Bullying, Data