June 20, 2014 Dignity for All Students Act Expanded
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
A Nassau County Supreme Court judge recently issued the first major decision regarding the scope of the Dignity for All Students Act (“DASA”). In J.G.S., et al. v. Bellmore-Merrick Cent. High Sch. Dist., et al., the trial court concluded, in resolving the District’s pre-answer motion to dismiss, that DASA requires a school district to regulate and prevent harassment, cyber-bullying and bullying against all students who reside within the school district, even if they do not attend the district’s schools.
In J.G.S., two Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District students allegedly harassed and defamed a private school student who resided within the District by posting a lewd video and falsely identifying that video as the private school student. The private school student sued claiming, among other things, that the District had violated DASA by not responding to complaints made by the private school student and her parents. The District moved to dismiss the DASA claim on the ground that the plaintiff student was not covered by DASA since she did not attend any District school.
The court held that DASA was intended to address and prevent any harassment, discrimination or bullying that has the effect of interfering with a student’s learning or disrupting the school environment. The court found that excluding private school students from DASA’s coverage “is not in line with this court’s reading of [DASA],” even though private schools are not subject to DASA.
The court dismissed the private school student’s negligence claim on the ground that the District did not owe a duty of care to her because she was not an enrolled student. The DASA claim is moving forward to discovery and, potentially, trial.
In light of this decision, school districts should review their policies and procedures regarding DASA compliance to ensure that they include protections for all students who reside within the district, including those who do not attend the district’s schools. Be aware that it is not clear from the court’s decision whether school districts have a DASA-related obligation to a non-resident student attending a private school within the district’s physical boundaries. Given the court’s expansive reading of DASA’s coverage, though, we recommend that school districts consider ensuring that any DASA-covered complaint made by those students (or their parents) is, at a minimum, reported to the student’s school and that the district maintain documentation memorializing the report.
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about DASA or would like us to review or help you update your policies and procedures regarding student bullying or harassment.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN THE GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
© Lamb & Barnosky, LLP 2014