I was asked by a blog reader to mention New York State’s Anti-Bullying laws. Two important laws went into effect this past summer with the goal of reducing bullying in our schools. I think we can all remember how badly some of our classmates were treated back in high school, and as I look back on those days as an adult and father, it is troubling to remember the abuse some kids had to deal with. I dealt with it from both sides of the vicious cycle many kids experience – at some points I was bullied, and at other points I behaved badly towards classmates. Let’s take a brief look at New York State’s efforts to address these issues.
1) Dignity for All Students Act (“DASA”), passed in 2010, but effective July 1, 2012 (the following from Child Abuse Prevention Services website):
The theory behind the law is that all children have the right to attend school in a safe, welcoming and caring environment. DASA amended the NYS Education Law regarding instruction in civility, citizenship, character education, tolerance, respect for others and dignity. It combats bias-based bullying, harassment, and discrimination in public schools, and promotes awareness and sensitivity in the relations of people, including individuals of different races, weights, national origins, ethnicities, religions or religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities. DASA does the following:
- Protects all public elementary and secondary school students from discrimination and harassment of students by other students, teachers and school personnel.
- Every school must amend its code of conduct to implement the prohibition of discrimination and harassment in age-appropriate language.
- All school districts must appoint at least one staff member in every school to handle bullying incidents on school property, buildings, buses and school sponsored activities and events (and includes athletic fields, playgrounds and parking lots).
- School administrators must report incidents of bullying to the NYS Department of Education.
2) Anti-Cyberbullying law signed by Governor Cuomo on July 9, 2012 (the following from Governor’s announcement when signing legislation):
- Requires that schools act in cases of cyberbullying, which may occur on or off campus, when it creates or would create a substantial risk to the school environment, substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance or mental, emotional or physical well-being, or causes a student to fear for his or her physical safety.
- Requires school districts to put in place protocols to deal with cyberbullying, harassment, bullying and discrimination, including assignment of a school official to receive and investigate reports; prompt reporting and investigation; responsive actions to prevent recurrence of any verified bullying; coordination with law enforcement when appropriate; development of a bullying prevention strategy; and notice to all school community members of the school’s policies.
- Sets training requirements for current school employees, as well as for new teachers and administrators applying for a certificate or license, on the identification and mitigation of harassment, bullying, cyberbullying and discrimination.
Let’s hope this legislation is successful in reducing bullying in our schools and allows our kids to have a more productive and enjoyable educational experience.
Lastly, I must point out that bullying types of behavior can rise to the level of conduct regulated by the NYS Penal Law, including Harassment in the First Degree (http://law.onecle.com/new-york/penal/PEN0240.25_240.25.html), Harassment in the Second Degree (http://law.onecle.com/new-york/penal/PEN0240.26_240.26.html), and Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree (http://law.onecle.com/new-york/penal/PEN0240.30_240.30.html).
James Maisano, Esq.