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“Every single child has a right to go to school without being intimidated or harassed, and every parent has the right to know that their child can go to school safely,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said at a press conference at City Hall on Oct. 19 to announce a new anti-bullying hotline.
Starting that afternoon, students can call the confidential hotline, 1-212-709-3222, from Monday through Friday, from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to speak to a licensed counselor.
The hotline, which the UFT will fund for its first year at a cost of $50,000, is the cornerstone of a broader BRAVE campaign (Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education), which the UFT has launched to combat bullying in schools.
The press conference was attended by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Comptroller John Liu, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, other city and state elected officials, and the head of the Mental Health Association of New York City.
“When children are bullied, they become fearful and may be afraid to go to a teacher, especially if they are embarrassed or being bullied for their sexuality, so this is enormous,” said Quinn of the new hotline.
Comptroller Liu said, “Whether it’s in the schoolyard or in cyberspace, bullying renders students unable to learn ... and has to stop.” He recalled being bullied with racial taunts when he was growing up and said he was glad the hotline is there if his 10-year-old should ever need it.
“What you see here today is the result of working collaboratively on behalf of students ... and I want to thank the UFT for their leadership — print that!” Chancellor Walcott joked to the press. “We all want our students to learn, graduate and be college- and career-ready, and to do that we need schools to be safe.”
Mulgrew noted that the new hotline would be staffed by LifeNet counselors who are part of the Mental Health Association of New York City and will provide crisis intervention, suicide risk assessment and advice on de-escalating a crisis. Beginning in January, counselors will also be accessible via text messaging and online chat.
While teachers are always aware of bullying, Mulgrew said, “We’re now telling them there’s extra support.”
A version of this story was first published on UFT.org on Oct. 19 at 4:29 p.m.