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Mayor, council deny competition over anti-bullying effort

Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

The D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent Gray this week made separate announcements within a day of each other that they were taking steps against bullying.

The Washington Examiner noted this in a story that ran in Friday's paper, "D.C. Council to act on anti-bullying bill."

Since then, both parties have insisted that they have been working together from the get-go.

"This is not a competition to get power or attention," Allison Abney, the spokeswoman for Council Chairman Kwame Brown, said. "We've been working together."

Indeed, last week the council's parks committee voted to move forward with the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012. It was originally introduced in January 2011, but never advanced.

It lay in wait, so to speak, for fifteen months. And then on Tuesday night, Gray sent out a press release saying he was creating the city's first anti-bullying taskforce and would formally announce it Wednesday. He was commissioning a research report and holding a public forum.

He made no mention of the council's first steps toward passing the anti-bullying bill, even though the bill's biggest mandate is that Gray create a taskforce. Why?

"I think that's a question better left for him and his staff," Abney said. "I can only speak to what the council's been doing, and we have been working with the executive closely."

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, explained, "We introduced our bullying proposal at this particular time because it coincided with the film," citing the private screening of the documentary Bully on Wednesday evening.

The council put out its own press release about its anti-bullying bill's on Wednesday, hours before Bully and a day after Gray's press release. They didn't mention Gray's effort.

Abney maintains that the at-odds announcements were not evidence of anything more than two agencies who were working together both touting the same effort.

And Ribeiro said the mayor's office "didn't go out of our way to exclude them or anything. That's not how this government operates."

He did note, however, that the mayor was powerless to move the anti-bullying bill along -- "Legislation goes through the council at the pace the council dictates" -- but did have the power to do exactly what he did this week: his own initiative.

Staff writer Alan Blinder contributed reporting.

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