Dignity for All Students Act

In a previous article, I mentioned how important it is that Latino parents know about the effects of bullying and harassment in schools. In this article, I will discuss aspects related to the new legislation, Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) which came into effect during the month of July 2012, as reported in an interview done by Nosotros Radio with experts from the Syracuse City School district, which will air on 95.3 FM And 103.9FM on October 26th and 27th. The DASA law seeks to provide to all public schools students in the State of New York with a safe environment and support, free of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, harassment within the school grounds, buses or at school activities.

In the interview, facilitated and recorded by Nosotros volunteers Edgardo Martinez and Diana Perez, the panel of experts discussed the implementation of the DASA Act in the Syracuse school district. This is the first New York State law to deal with this problem in public schools. The Syracuse school district has done its part to implement the law and made curriculum revisions based on the same. Therefore, it is imperative that both students and parents are aware of this important legislation and that we understand its purposes and implementation.

The DASA Act amended Section 801 of the Education Act of the State with regards to instruction in civism and citizenship to expand the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity to include : an understanding and sensitivity in relations with people, including but not limited to, different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The legislation also requires the Board of Education to include language regarding the Dignity Act in their codes of conduct.

In addition, under the Act, schools will be responsible for collecting and reporting data regarding incidents related to discrimination and harassment. As discussed in the radio interview by Nosotros Radio with Steve Gramet Director Pupil Services, Linda Kraemer Licensed School Social Worker, and Carol Marshall Certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Trainer, the Act requires schools to incorporate curricula on diversity and sensitivity in civism and citizenship lessons. An employee at each school will participate in an intensive training program to recognize and respond effectively to bullying and harassment, and developing strategies to prevent it. This person will be the school’s designated contact to handle the problems of bullying and/or harassment. In addition, the school district of Syracuse will endeavor to educate the perpetrator, and support the victims. According to Mr. Steve Gramet “sending the bully home or school suspension doesn’t solve the problem.” Incidents of harassment will be reported to the Department of education of the State of New York. The school district of Syracuse has already revised codes of conduct to include language related to prevention, intervention, and education about bullying and harassment.

Victims of bullying may be harassed for several reasons, including gender, race, sexual preference, weight, physical disabilities, religion and/or religious practices. The panel of experts interviewed by Nosotros Radio also discussed other factors related to this behavior to include :

  • The detrimental effects on our children: unexcused absences, depression, thoughts of suicide, abuse of controlled substances, lower academic progress, etc.
  • The high rate of suicides among Latinos and Native-American students. 
  • Vulnerable populations include students: from ethnic minority groups, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, as well as students with special needs.
  • The victims of bullying and some perpetrators exhibit deficiencies in social skills, although for some it’s a power driven behavior that contributes to their ability to harass and manipulate others. 

In conclusion, if we want our children and youth to be educated and learn, we have to know and be aware of these situations. There are laws and local resources that protect and help both victims and perpetrators of bullying.  It is important to remember that “children can’t learn if they do not feel safe.”

Link to DASA: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact/

About the author: Omara Rivera Vázquez, Ph.D. is Puerto Rican and holds an Assistant Professor position within the Department of Public Justice at the State University of New York -Oswego. She received her doctoral degree in Family and Child Ecology as well as a dual master’s degree in Criminal Justice-Urban Affairs from Michigan State University.

About Nosotros Radio: Nosotros Radio is a not-for-profit radio program that features bilingual talk radio programs and Latin music entertainment on WVOA stations 103.9 FM & 95.3 FM. The mission of Nosotros Radio, Inc. is to provide quality on-air Spanish & English education and information, combined with radio entertainment for the encouragement and strengthening of the Latino community, and the promotion of intercultural sharing among Central New York’s diverse communities.  The program airs Thursday 8:30PM-10:00PM, Friday 8:00PM-10:00PM, Saturday 3:00PM-7:00PM. 

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