Paterson signs anti-bullying measure
On Board Online • September 20, 2010
By Marc Humbert
School officials across New York have a new tool to use in the fight against bullying in schools or at school functions.
On Sept. 8, Gov. David Paterson signed into law the “Dignity for All Students Act,” ending New York’s status as one of the few states without a specific anti-bullying law.
Under the new measure, which takes effect on July 1, 2012, harassment and discrimination based on, among other things, race, gender, religion, disability, weight or sexual orientation are prohibited in public schools.
The new law requires districts provide staff training and designate one person in each school who will be specially trained to deal with bullying issues. Districts must also revise their codes of conduct and adopt policies “intended to create a school environment free from harassment and discrimination.”
The measure charges the state education commissioner with developing model policies for implementation of the law, and districts will be required to report to the State Education Department, at least once a year, all incidents of harassment or discrimination.
While New York has lagged behind a host of other states in adopting anti-bullying legislation, some districts, including New York City, have adopted their own measures to deal with the problem. NYSSBA’s sample code of conduct includes language prohibiting bullying and harassment, and also has offered policies directed specifically at bullying. NYSSBA first addressed the issue in 2007 when it offered a policy workshop entitled “Bullying, Cyberbullying and Harassment: Tools to Counter School Violence.”
“Every student has the right to a safe and civil educational environment, but far too often young people are ruthlessly targeted by bullies,” Gov. Paterson said in signing the bill into law. “Bullying and harassment have disrupted the education of too many young people.”
At the bill-signing ceremony in New York City, Paterson noted that as a blind elementary school student, he was subjected to such harassment, and retaliated.
“I hit the bully in the face with my lunch box,” the governor recalled. “That is not the way to handle the problem.”
The bill was championed in the Senate by Thomas Duane and in the Assembly by Daniel O’Donnell, Manhattan Democrats who are both openly gay.
Duane said the New York law “is unique in that it focuses on education and the prevention of bullying and harassment before they begin rather than punishment after the fact.”
O’Donnell, the brother of actress Rosie O’Donnell, said the measure would help provide “an environment that allows every child to reach his or her full potential.”
As a next step, Duane said he has begun work on an amendment to the new law that would help officials in the battle against cyberbullying.
Editor’s Note: NYSSBA will address how districts can comply with the provisions of the Dignity for All Students Act of 2010 in two upcoming workshops. The first, “Essential Policy Elements of School Safety,” will be offered Sept. 30 in Melville, Oct. 7 in Latham and Oct. 8 in Rochester. The second, “Inclusive Schools: Successful Places to Learn and Work” will be offered in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League’s A Workplace of Difference® program. It will be offered Nov. 4 in Latham, Nov. 9 in Ithaca and Nov. 18 in Islandia. For more information, see www.nyssba.org/events.
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