Students will soon have greater protection from school bullying, now that state lawmakers have passed the Dignity For All Students Act June 22.
Once signed by Gov. David Paterson, prejudice and harassment based on gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, weight and religion will be prohibited on school grounds. Teachers and administrators will be taught to tackle instances of harassment, and they will be required to report episodes to school officials. When abusive incidents occur, schools will be encouraged to respond through offering support services and counseling rather than disciplinary action.
“No child should be terrified to go to school simply because of who they are. There is no place for bullying and discrimination in New York’s classrooms,” said State Sen. Tom Duane, the bill’s author who is openly gay. “Punishing students after the fact does little to address the root cause of the problem.
Upper West Side Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who is a bill sponsor, said the legislation can be easily implemented in schools.
“Too many students are bullied based on real or perceived differences with their classmates,” he said in the statement.
For the New York branch of the ACLU, the most important aspect of the bill is its protection of at-risk groups.
“Bullies will be put on watch,” said Erica Braudy, Lead Organizer at the NY ACLU. “There will be clear prohibitions put on bullying that will not be limited to certain groups.”
In addition, Paterson has presented a complement to the legislation that will create a state-wide hotline number and require schools to follow the state’s human rights laws against discrimination.