Chris Verga column |
His classmates posted a photo on social media depicting him as a gorilla. They also sent him phrases that included, “Black people are not functioning members of society.”
But 15-year-old Devin Moore of Bay Shore didn’t let any of that intimidate him.
Or, dampen his spirits.
Or, his will to help himself and others.
He’s since been working to better educate teachers, school administrators, peers and parents about the seriousness of bullying — in all forms.
And he’s been getting results and recognition from his efforts, on Long Island and beyond.
Just last month, the county’s first-ever Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force met — thanks to Devin’s push.
For Devin and his mom, Ursula Moore, they found the bullying at Devin’s private school was getting swept under the rug, which only compounded the problem. They imagined the same issues were happening in schools all across the U.S.
According to a Tyler Clementi Foundation survey, 28 percent of all students between the grades of 6-12 experience bullying. A more troubling statistic released by the CDC (Center for Disease Control Prevention), states that 20 percent of suicides happen between the ages of 15-24.
Looking to lend support to others who might be suffering in silence, Devin started a social media forum through #RaceToSpeakUp.
“My name is Devin,” he writes in his @racetospeakup Instagram profile. “I created #RaceToSpeakUp so that I can educate and empower the youth about how to stand up against bullying and hate.”
“My son turned this negativity into an act of urgency, to advocate for victims of bullying,” said Devin’s mother, Ursula Moore. “Devin witnessed how bullying can be covered up in school, and started this public forum to expose the problem.”
The social media forum started as a safe space for bullied kids to voice their frustrations and learn to advocate for themselves.
But it evolved as a vehicle to make more change than Devin could have imagined.
Devin has had kids share their stories of bullying from as far as Texas.
The success of the account inspired Devin too start a collaboration with other organizations on anti-bullying, which include, among others; Virginian Parents Against Bullying, the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying, the Chicago-based Humanity Rising, and the Islip Town NAACP.
Buoyed by the support of those groups, Devin took to his local county legislator’s office.
“Devin came into my office and explained his experience and was hoping to seek bullying prevention mandates, but most educational mandates are on a state level,” said county Legislator DuWayne Gregory, who’s also the Legislature’s presiding officer. “I then suggested we can form a county task force on bullying, which can educate schools on prevention and later advocate for state law.”
Gregory helped form the Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force, which first met June 24.
The 14- member youth group is headed by Devin. He proposed such ideas as requiring schools to make reported school bullying statistics public, to be used as a measurement of school safety.
“His passion impressed the other legislators at the first meeting,” Gregory said.
Following the meeting, Legislator William Spencer offered to collaborate with the task force even further to help bring real, meaningful change to schools and neighborhoods in Suffolk County.
The next meeting is July 24 at 6 p.m. at Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus.
This next meeting will discuss how to implement a database on reported bullying incidents and a lobbying plan on how to expand the six-hour workshop, Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) Training to all teachers, not just those seeking a certification.
To get involved in helping Devin, he asks that readers sign the below petition.
“Bullying can’t be ignored!” the petition reads. “Kids should be safe in a learning environment! The anti-bullying law holds schools accountable and makes them report bullying (physical, verbal, social and cyber) incidents. Schools must handle bullying incidents accordingly and effectively.
“We want legislators, senators, assembly members to ACT NOW!”
Click here to view the petition.
Top: Devin Moore, 15, of Bay Shore, with Legislator William Spencer. (courtesy)