New York, NY, June 22, 2010 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today applauded the New York State Senate for passing broad anti-bullying and anti-harassment legislation that will protect children in the state's public schools.
ADL's New York Region is a leading member of a coalition that has been working in support of The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) for nearly a decade. The coalition includes the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), NYSUT, and the Empire State Pride Agenda.
"This legislation is critical to ensuring the safety of New York children," said Jeffrey M. Parker, ADL New York Regional Board Chair and Ron Meier, ADL New York Regional Director. "The training and accountability provisions of DASA will impact every school in the state by giving them the tools to take action against the pervasive evils of bullying and harassment."
DASA will amend state Education Law to protect public school students from severe and pervasive harassment and discrimination, including "verbal threats, intimidation or abuse," based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, religious practice, weight, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. The bill's protections are not limited to these categories.
"This is a major victory for children, parents and educators across the state," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "No child should be afraid to go to school. With this vote, the State Senate has empowered New York's educators to fulfill their responsibility to provide all students a safe, nurturing learning environment."
"This issue has been allowed to languish far too long," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta, who oversees the union's legislative and political operations. "We applaud the Legislature's action on this very important matter, and we urge the governor to sign the Dignity for All Students Act into law."
The act – which previously passed the State Assembly seven times, only to stall in the Senate – calls for teachers and staff to receive regular training to properly address instances of harassment and discrimination. The new law will require monitoring and reporting of such incidents.
The bill defines "harassment" in a manner that appropriately excludes speech and expression that is entitled to First Amendment protections, and aims to protect all students from any harassment that substantially interferes with their education.
"This is a watershed moment for New York schools, which are about to get safer for all students. GLSEN applauds the New York State Legislature for taking comprehensive action against all forms of bullying and ensuring that all students are protected under the law," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "After nine long years of work to pass this legislation, GLSEN is pleased that New York will now join nine other states that have passed effective, enumerated safe schools legislation."
"While this legislation will help make schools harassment-free zones for all students, it is also the first-ever New York State law that includes explicit protections based on gender identity and expression, and we are particularly pleased that the Legislature had taken the important step of making schools safe for transgender youth," said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross D. Levi. "No student should be targeting for bullying just because they are different."
The State Assembly passed DASA on May 17. Gov. David Paterson has pledged to sign the act into law, and last week introduced a complementary anti-bullying bill that would establish a school violence hotline and require schools to follow the state's human rights law against discrimination. Once signed, New York will become the 43rd state to enact comprehensive anti-bullying legislation.
The dignity bill is supported by more than 100 additional organizations statewide, including the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, Citizen Action of New York State, the Council for Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), the National Education Association (NEA) – New York, the National Organization of Women (NOW New York State, as well as the Albany and New York City chapters), the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the Sikh Coalition and Latino Justice: PRLDEF.