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6/23/2010: "Dignity For All Students Act"

 
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Press Conference

(Albany, NY) The Senate Democratic Majority announced and celebrated the passage of the landmark ‘Dignity for All Students Act’ (S. 1987B) today at 11:30 AM.


The most comprehensive legislation against harassment in schools to date, the ‘Dignity for All Students Act’ will help reduce the incidences on bullying amongst New York’s youth. This legislation had been stalled in the Senate for several years prior to Democratic leadership.


WHO:


Senator Thomas K. Duane, Sponsor


Senator Eric Adams


Senator Joseph Addabbo


Senator Neil Breslin


Senator Martin Malave Dilan


Senator Brian X. Foley


Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson


Senator Shirley L. Huntley


Senator Craig Johnson


Senator Liz Krueger


Senator Velmanette Montgomery


Senator Suzi Oppenheimer


Senator Kevin Parker


Senator Jose Peralta


Senator Bill Perkins


Senator Diane Savino


Senator Eric Schneiderman


Senator Jose Serrano


Senator Daniel Squadron


Senator Antoine Thompson


Senator David Valesky


WHEN: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 @ 11:30 A.M.


WHERE: Senate Chamber Hallway, 3rd Floor, Capitol


 


Providing All Students With A Safe Learning Environment


Senate Passes Landmark ‘Dignity For All Students Act’


(Albany, NY) Committed to ensuring that all students have a safe environment in which to learn, free from harassment and discrimination, the Senate Democratic Majority passed the ‘Dignity for All Students Act’ (S. 1987B/ Duane). This legislation aims to provide all students with a safe school environment conducive to learning by putting an end to harassment and discrimination based on but not limited to race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.


“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 Senator Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan), lead sponsor of the bill. “Punishing students after the fact does little to address the root cause of the problem. Dignity is unique in that it seeks to prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination through education and awareness before it occurs.”


Dignity was one of the first pieces of legislation introduced by Senator Duane upon his election to the Senate in 1999, but was held up during that time in Committee.


In order to address these issues and establish a safer, more constructive school environment, this bill:


· Prohibits harassment or discrimination against students by employees or students while on school property or on school grounds.


· Defines “harassment” as the creation of a hostile environment by conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that has or would unreasonably interfere with educational performance, opportunities, benefits, or physical or emotional well being, or cause fear for physical safety.


· Prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.


The continuing need for this legislation is apparent from recent data demonstrating the prevalence of bias-based harassment in New York schools. A survey commissioned by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that more than one-third (39%) of New York students reported that bullying, name calling, and harassment is a serious problem in school. Students were asked about the frequency of witnessing other students bullied, called names, or harassed in school.


From Teasing to Torment: A Report on School Climate in New York (GLSEN 2005), revealed the most commonly reported harassment was based on physical appearance. Sixty-six percent (66%) of students reported that people at school were harassed at least sometimes because of their looks or body size, with 38% reporting that this happened often or very often. This bill therefore now includes weight as one of the examples contained in the non-exclusive list at the end of the harassment definition.


Bullying and harassment based on how people expressed their gender, or because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation was also very common. Fifty seven percent (57%) of respondents reported that students were bullied or harassed at least sometimes because of the way they expressed their gender, and about a quarter (23%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often. More than five out of ten (52%) reported that students were harassed because they were or were perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual, even as only 5% identified as being so. About a quarter (24%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often.


Similar measures have already been passed in 11 other states: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, and in dozens of New York localities including Albany, Buffalo, East Hampton, Heuvelton, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs and Yonkers.


Senator Shirley L. Huntley (D-Jamaica) said, “Besides their own home, a child’s safe haven in many instances is their local school. The ‘Dignity for All Students Act’ ensures that children will not have to fear going to school due to the possibility of being harassed and ridiculed because of their different physical and mental characteristics. A child should not have to worry about how their differences may be perceived among their peers, but rather how to best succeed in school.’