New York Governor David Paterson today signed a comprehensive anti-bullying bill called the Dignity for All Students Act.
The bill, which prohibits harassment "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," requires schools 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.
Said Paterson in a statement: "Every student has the right to a safe and civil educational environment, but far too often young people are ruthlessly targeted by bullies. Bullying and harassment have disrupted the education of too many young people, and we in government have a responsibility to do our part to create learning environments that help our children prosper. I am proud to sign this bill into law as it will help ensure that students are protected from harassment, discrimination and bullying at school grounds and at school functions."
Added State Senator Thomas Duane, the bill's sponsor:
"I applaud Governor Paterson for his strong support as he signs The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) into law. DASA was one of the first bills I introduced in 1999 when I was newly elected to the State Senate. Now, after more than a decade of struggle, and with the Governor's support from the beginning to today, DASA will finally become a reality. Its intention is simple: No child should be terrified to go to school due to bullying and harassment. DASA is unique in that it focuses on education and the prevention of bullying and harassment before they begin rather than punishment after the fact. Further, the new law will include protections for students of transgendered experience — the first time such provisions will be enshrined in New York State law. DASA will improve the quality of life for all of New York's public school students and will enhance their ability to thrive in a safe and nurturing educational environment."
Added Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, the bill's sponsor in the Assembly: "Too many students are bullied based on real or perceived differences with their classmates. Every student deserves an environment free of harassment and discrimination, an environment that allows every child to reach his or her full potential. For too long, our educational system has been blind to the plight of these students. I am proud that the Assembly led the way on this important issue, and that today, the Dignity for All Students Act is finally signed into law."
The law takes effect on July 1, 2012 — although certain rules and regulations related to implementation may take effect before that.