By Staff Attorney Ian Harris
"All public elementary and secondary school students have the right to attend school in a safe, welcoming, considerate, and caring environment."
On September 13, 2010, New York State signed into law the Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) or "DASA." After nearly two years of planning to implement the law, DASA will take effect on July 1, 2012.
According to the New York State Department of Education website:
The goal of the Dignity Act is to create a safe and supportive school climate where students can learn and focus, rather than fear being discriminated against and/or verbally and/or physically harassed.
Specifically, the Dignity Act protects all public elementary and secondary school students on school property or at school functions by prohibiting discrimination by employees or students based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.
|Image courtesy of NYSUT.org|
According to the new law, the New York State Education Department must create regulations, create procedures for yearly reports of incidents of discrimination, and provide direction (including possible model prevention policies) to assist schools in implementing the law. Local Boards of Education also have responsibilities under the new law including developing policies to create a discrimination and harassment free school environment and developing guidelines for school training programs that "raise awareness and sensitivity" of school employees and to enable employees to prevent and respond when discrimination or harassment occurs. Lastly, schools must develop guidelines for "non-discriminatory instructional and counseling methods" and for the training of one or more staff members to "handle human relations issues."
Day One, as the only organization in New York exclusively focused on intimate preventing and stopping intimate partner abuse among young people aged 24 and younger, firmly supports DASA. Students deserve to feel safe at all times, but it is especially important that students feel safe when they step into the hallways of our public schools. While a law is never enough, we must all participate in ending harassment and discrimination, DASA is a positive step forward towards the goal of making New York public schools a healthier and safer environment for all students.
If you have any further questions about DASA, click over to the New York Education Department website at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact/ where you can watch a webinar to read through the wealth of available resources.
The full text of the Dignity Act and its implementing regulations can be found at Education Law §12 and 8 NYCRR §100.2[l]).