New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (DASA)
“QuERI has been an invaluable resource as a leading member of The New York State Dignity for All Students Act Task Force…QuERI’s participation on the Task Force has helped us to ensure that districts have accurate information about the challenges facing queer students and about confronting educators’ biases. Dr. Payne’s leadership on this issue has helped make queer students a focus of the Task Force’s work. There is not another organization in New York State that could provide this perspective for our anti-bullying work. QuERI’s influence on how the Dignity Act is implemented will have consequences for students in every district in the state.”Johanna Miller, J.D. & Corey Stoughton, J.D., New York Civil Liberties Union.
DASA went into effect in New York State July, 1. 2012. It was passed in the New York State Senate in June, 2010. The bill was first introduced in the Legislature in 2000 and was passed nine times by the Assembly with bipartisan support, but was blocked in the Senate for nine years. The June 2010 vote marked the first time the Senate allowed the bill to come to the floor. The bill was signed by the governor September, 2010. It is largely unfunded. Twelve other states and the District of Columbia have passed measures that explicitly prohibit harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, including: California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont and Maine. Three additional states have safe schools laws designed to protect students based upon sexual orientation, but do not include gender identity and expression: Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Dr. Payne, Director of QuERI, serves on the New York State Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) Task Force and the DASA State Policy Group and is the only education researcher on the DASA implementation committees.
QuERI provides professional development on DASA implementation in support of LGBTQ students and families.
“To help provide a safe and civil educational environment, the Dignity for All Students Act requires school districts to:
- Revise their codes of conduct and adopt policies intended to create a school environment free from harassment and discrimination;
- Adopt guidelines to be used in school training programs to raise awareness and sensitivity of school employees to these issues and to enable them to respond appropriately; and
- Designate at least one staff member in each school to be trained in non-discriminatory instructional and counseling methods and handling human relations.
The bill explicitly defines “harassment” in terms of 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.”
Dignity for All Students Act Relevant Clauses
10. Legislative intent. The legislature finds that students’ ability to learn and to meet high academic standards, and a school’s ability to educate its students, are compromised by incidents of discrimination or harassment including bullying, taunting or intimidation. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state to afford all students in public schools an environment free of discrimination and harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex. The purpose of this article is to foster civility in public schools and to prevent and prohibit conduct which is inconsistent with a school’s educational mission.
12. Discrimination and harassment prohibited. 1. No student shall be subjected to harassment by employees or students on school property or at a school function; nor shall any student be subjected to discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex by school employees or students on school property or at a school function. 2. An age-appropriate version of the policy outlined in subdivision one of this section, written in plain-language, shall be included in the of conduct adopted by boards of education and the trustees or sole pursuant to section twenty-eight hundred one of this chapter and summary of such policy shall be included in any summaries required by such section twenty-eight hundred one.
3. Section 801-a of the education law, as added by chapter 181 of laws of 2000, is amended to read as follows:
- 801-a. Instruction in civility, citizenship and character education. The regents shall ensure that the course of instruction in grades kindergarten through twelve includes a component on civility, citizenship and character education. Such component shall instruct students on the principles of honesty, tolerance, personal responsibility, respect for others, observance of laws and rules, courtesy, dignity and other traits which will enhance the quality of their experiences in, and contributions to, the community. The regents shall determine how to incorporate such component in existing curricula and the commissioner shall promulgate any regulations needed to carry out such determination of the regents. For the purposes of this section, “tolerance,” “respect for others” and “dignity” shall include awareness and sensitivity to discrimination or harassment and civility in the relations of people of different races, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, genders, and sexes.
Relevant Commissioner’s Regulations:
Section 100.2(jj). School Employee Training and the Dignity Act
“As the Assembly representative to the Dignity Task Force, my charge has been to make sure that the Assembly’s intent that the law protect all students is carried out and that LGBT students are not ignored in day-to-day implementation; I could not have carried out that charge effectively without QuERI’s participation over the last two years. QuERI has been a critically important member of the Task Force and Dr. Payne has been the person we have all turned to for solid research-based information about what works, what does not work, and where research still needs to be done. Her extraordinary knowledge and her ability to explain the research to a lay audience have immeasurably enhanced the Task Force’s work.”Ann Horowitz, J.D., Counsel to New York Assembly Member O’Donnell
- Professional Development: On or before July 1, 2012, for schools to implement school employee training programs, commencing with the 2012 -13 school year and thereafter, to promote a positive school environment that is free from discrimination and harassment and to discourage and respond to incidents of discrimination and/or harassment on school property or at a school function. Employee training guidelines shall be approved by the board of education of the school district (or by the chancellor of the city school district in the case of the City School District of the City of New York) and by the board of trustees of the charter school
- DASA Coordinator: The designation of each Dignity Act Coordinator shall be approved by the board of education, trustees or sole trustee of the school district (or in the case of the City School District of the City of New York, by the principal of the school in which the designated employee is employed) and, in the case of a charter school, by the board of trustees. The name(s) and contact information for the Dignity Act Coordinator(s) shall be shared with all school personnel, students, and persons in parental relation.