ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) - Here is a breakdown of current anti-bullying legislation in New York State:
The Dignity for All Students Act aims to end discrimination and harassment in schools.
It prohibits harassment against all students in public schools, including harassment based on a person's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex and also prohibits discrimination based on a person's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
The Dignity for All Students Act requires each school district to:
- Establish anti-harassment and discrimination policies;
- Create school training programs in harassment and discrimination;
- Raise staff sensitivity and awareness, as well as enable staff to respond to harassment;
- Develop nondiscrimination instruction and counseling methods.
The curriculum for every grade, K – 12, must include a course on civility, citizenship and character education.
The Dignity for All Students Act was passed during the 2011 legislative session and will take effect on July 1, 2012.
The Law to Encourage the Acceptance of All Differences (LEAD) addresses bullying more directly.
It gives the term "bullying" a specific definition (see below). It targets bullying behavior in general, not just cases based on discrimination. Rather than simply requiring anti-bullying policies, it spells out the specific actions that school districts must take to prevent bullying before it happens, and respond to cases where bullying is already occurring.
LEAD defines bullying as severe or repeated actions by one or more students or school employees that has the effect of:
- Causing physical injury, emotional harm, or damage to a student's property;
- Placing the student in reasonable fear of harm or damage to his/her property;
- Creating a hostile environment at school for the student; or
- Materially and substantially disrupting the educational process or orderly operation of a school.
Acts of bullying include, but are not limited to, those acts which are motivated by a student's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
LEAD requires the curriculum in all grades, K – 12, to include a component on discouraging acts of bullying. Students would receive instruction on civility, sensitivity toward others, and bullying awareness.
All school employees (including teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches, custodians) would be required to report known or suspected incidences of bullying to the superintendent. The law would protect any employee who reports such incidents in good faith from civil liability. This is just like the mandatory reporting policy that applies to known or suspected incidences of child abuse.
LEAD would add bullying to the list of incidents for which disciplinary measures must be taken pursuant to the district's code of conduct.
(As Sen. Gallivan said during an interview on Monday, "It now requires teachers, school administrators to not look the other way.")
LEAD was passed by the Senate during the 2011 legislative session, but would still need to be passed by the Assembly and signed by Governor Cuomo before it can become law.
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