October 27, 2010 Dignity for All Students Act
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
We are writing to make you aware of recently enacted legislation, the Dignity for AII Students Act (“DASA” or the “Act”), which bans harassment and discrimination against students in public schools and directs that school districts take certain measures to create a safe and civil educational environment effective July l, 2012- Among other actions, the DASA mandates that at least one staff member in each school building be appointed to implement anti-bullying techniques and that administrators report incidents of bullying or bias-based harassment to the New York State Education Department (“the SED”).
DASA was signed into law by Governor David A. Paterson on September 8, 2010. It explicitly prohibits harassment or discrimination against students with respect to certain protected classes including, but not limited to, the student’s actual or perceived “race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.” The Act defines “harassment” as “the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that 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. …”
The Act applies on “school property” and during “school functions.” “School property” is defined as the space within any building, structure, athletic playing field, playground, parking lot or land contained within the real property boundary line of a public elementary or secondary school, or in a school bus. “School functions” include any school-sponsored extra-curricular event or activity.
The Act requires each district to create policies and guidelines including, but not limited to:
1. Policies intended to create a school environment that is free from discrimination or harassment.
2. Guidelines to be used in school training programs to discourage the development of discrimination or harassment and that are designed to:
(a) raise the awareness and sensitivity of school employees to potential discrimination or harassment; and
(b) enable employees to prevent and respond to discrimination or harassment.
3. Guidelines relating to the development of nondiscriminatory instructional and counseling methods. These must require at least one staff member at every school building be thoroughly trained to handle human relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender and sex.
In addition, the Act requires that each district include an age-appropriate, plain language version of an anti-bullying policy in its Code of Conduct. The Act charges the Commissioner of Education with responsibility for promulgating regulations to assist school districts in implementing the law. The Commissioner is also directed to create a procedure pursuant to which material incidents of discrimination and harassment are reported to SED. The Act takes effect July 1, 2012. School district and BOCES’ codes, policies and guidelines should be reviewed to ensure that they are in full compliance with this new law on or before that date. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this Act.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF TIIE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
© Lamb & Barnosky, LLP, 2010
1. While the Act contains broad references to “school districts” and “public schools,” the State Education Department has advised us that it will interpret the Act as also applying to all B.O.C.E.S.