The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA)

 

In schools, it’s no secret that bullying is an ever-present issue. More importantly, issues arise where students face discrimination, or harassment in their school environment. To combat the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination, DASA was enacted to ensure students can be educated in an equal environment. The Dignity for All Students Act seeks to afford all student in public schools an environment free of discrimination and harassment to foster civility and prevent and prohibit conduct inconsistent with a school’s educational mission (§ 10). This act protects all students attending public schools in New York state, which includes charter schools. This act prohibits discrimination based on someone’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, religious practice, gender, color, national origin, or sex (§ 12; 8 NYCRR § 100.2(kk)(1)(vii)). It’s also important to note that gender is defined as a persons perceived gender, or gender expression (§ 11(6)). This means that no matter how a person chooses to express themselves, whether it’s through their gender expression, their wearing of religious garbs, or traditional ethnic attire, they are protected under this act, and have every right to attend school as they see fit, free from harassment and discrimination.

 

Under DASA, harassment, bullying, and discrimination are defined as the creation of a hostile environment by a conduct that is filled with threats, intimidation, or abuse. This environment also applies to cyberbullying, which means that students are not to be harassed, intimidated or threatened on social media. Their photos are not to be reposted in a malicious way with demeaning, threatening, or intimidating captions.

 

School districts have an obligation to adopt policies and procedures intended to create a school environment that is free from harassment, bullying, and discrimination. As part of the policies and procedures, the school district or School Boards and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) must:

 

  • Designate an employee that receives and investigates reports of harassment, bullying, and discrimination.
  • Require all school employees who witness or receive reports that a student has been bullied or harassed to report these incidents immediately. This also includes receiving reports of discrimination. Officials must verbally notify the school’s designee within one school day, and file a written report within two school days.
  • Give students the ability to make oral or written reports of discriminatory, or harassing conduct to teachers, and other school officials.
  • Take appropriate action when a report is filed.
  • Include strategies that prevent harassment, bullying, and discrimination.
  • Require all school personnel to immediately notify local law enforcement when harassment, bullying, or discrimination constitutes criminal conduct (§§ 13 (1), 16; * NYCRR § 100.2(kk)(2),(4)).

 

The law pressures schools to properly, and promptly report issues of bullying harassment, and discrimination. It imposes two reporting requirements. All incidents of harassment, bullying, or discrimination must be reported to the commissioner on a yearly basis (§15; 8 NYCRR § 100.2 (kk)(3)). The law also imposes that the following information must be reported with respect to each incident where a student was subjected to harassment, bullying, or discrimination:

  • The type of bias involved (an issue of someone’s gender identity, religious practice, etc..).
  • Whether the incident involved student and/or employee conduct.
  • Whether the incident involved physical contact, intimidation, abuse, or cyberbullying.
  • The location of where the incident occurred.

DASA pressures school to encourage an environment that is free from bullying, harassment, or hostile environments so that all students may be educated and develop in an environment that they may most benefit from. Though a school districts decision against DASA may be subjected to liability, many instances of bullying, harassment, and hostility in classrooms often go unnoticed, and unreported. 

 

 

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Managing Attorney

Angel A. Castro, III, Esq.

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