Dignity for All Students Act Signed Into Law

New York has become the latest state to take a hard line against bullying in schools by enacting the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), a comprehensive piece of anti-bullying legislation which will require public schools to establish policies and procedures for dealing with instances of harassment and discrimination. The City Bar’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Committee, Council on Children, and Sex and Law Committee have been strong advocates for the legislation, arguing that DASA would accomplish the important goal of instituting prevention mechanisms necessary to deter and combat bullying in our schools. The new law defines “harassment” as behavior creating a hostile environment that unreasonably and substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being, or conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety. The bill explicitly prohibits harassment and discrimination of students with respect to certain non-exclusive 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.”

“We are so pleased to see DASA finally become law.  All students deserve a school environment where they feel safe to learn, thrive and be themselves,” said LGBT Rights Committee Chair Carmelyn P. Malalis.  “DASA will empower educators around the state to create that kind of environment and will help protect our students from the bullying and harassment that hinders their education.”

DASA will become effective in 2012 to give school districts time to establish and implement the new rules and regulations.