The Dignity for All Students Act
The Dignity for All Students Act
New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.
The Dignity Act was signed into law on September 13, 2010 and took effect on July 1, 2012.
This legislation amended State Education Law by creating a new Article 2 – Dignity for All Students. The Dignity Act also amended Section 801-a of New York State Education Law regarding instruction in civility, citizenship, and character education by expanding the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity to include: an awareness and sensitivity in the relations of people, including but not limited to, different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identity, and sexes. The Dignity Act further amended Section 2801 of the Education Law by requiring Boards of Education to include language addressing The Dignity Act in their codes of conduct.
Additionally, under the Dignity Act, schools will be responsible for collecting and reporting data regarding material incidents of discrimination and harassment.
Why is the Dignity Act necessary?
Survey (2009) by Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 1/3 of LBGTQ students in NYS stated that harassment, bullying, and name calling are serious problems at their schools. The Olweus survey (2012) found that 10% of the students said they had bullied others and 17% of students said they had been bullied 2-3 times per month or more. There have also been several highly-publicized suicides of students after they were reportedly harassed and bullied, several of which took place in New York State.
What is the Intent of the Dignity Act?
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.
What does the Dignity Act say?
No student shall be subjected to harassment by employees or students on school property or at a school function; nor shall any student be subjected to discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity or expression), or sex.
Amendment to the Dignity Act, Effective July 1, 2013 (Chapter 102 Laws of 2012)
The following provisions are in addition to the original Dignity Act.
Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying will be defined as harassment or bullying by any form of electronic communication, and include incidents occurring off school property that create or would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment.
Includes electronic communication which:
Has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student's educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well being.
Reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety.
Reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause physical injury or emotional harm to a student.
Occurs off school property and creates or would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment, where it is foreseeable that the conduct, threats, intimidation, or abuse might reach scnool property.
Reports of Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination: The principal, superintendent, or designee must be charged with receiving reports.
Investigation of Reports: The principal, superintendent, or designee must lead or supervise the prompt and thorough investigation of reports.
Reponse to Verified Reports: The school mut take prompt actions reasonably calculated to end the harassment, bullying or discrimination, eliminate any hostile environment, and ensure the safety of the student(s) toward whom harrassment, bullying or discrimination was directed.
Employee Reporting: School employees who witness or receive a report of harassment, bullying, or discrimination must notify the principal, superintendent or designee within one school day after witnessing the incident or receiving the report and must file a written report within two school days thereafter.
Notification of Law Enforcement: The principal, superintendent or designee will be required to notify appropriate local law enforcement when they believe that any harassment, bullying or discrimination constitutes criminal conduct.
Curriculum: Curriculum must include instruction in safe and responsible use of the Internet and electronic communications and emphasize discouraging acts of harassment, bullying and discrimination.
Guidance and Educational Materials: The State Education Department will provide guidance and educational
materials, including best practices in addressing cyberbullying, and best practices in helping families and communities to work cooperatively with schools in addressing cyberbullying.
Amendment taking effect January I, 2014: Professional Certification: Professionals applying for certificate or license, including but not limited to classroom teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, school administrators or supervisors, and superintendents of schools, must complete training on the social patterns of harassment, bullying and discrimination, identification and mitigation of harassment, bullying and discrimination, and strategies for effectively addressing exclusion, bias and aggression in educational setings.
How can the community support The Dignity Act?
Understand the definitions of the law and clarify and misconceptions about the law.
Practive giving dignity to all people you meet.
Diaglogue with community members about how to infuse dignity into all community gatherings.