Last week Governor Paterson signed “The Dignity for All Students Act”, making it possible for educators and administrators to ensure that students of all shapes, sizes, color, and abilities have a safe secure learning environment. In a statement by Governor Paterson he said “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.”
The bare bones of this Act require school districts to revise their codes of conduct and adopt policies intended to create a school environment free of harassment and discrimination. Governor Paterson joked with reporters as the first legally blind student in his school district in Long Island he took his metal lunch box to a bully’s head. His dad scolded him for not handling the situation appropriately and his mom thought it was cool. Unfortunately we can allow our children to hit others that are bullying them, and metal lunch boxes are a thing of the past, today’s lunch boxes wouldn’t have the same affect.
The district must also adopt guidelines to be used in school training programs that raise awareness and sensitively to issues. It must also provide teachers and staff with the appropriate tools to deal with these types of situations. This new Act takes into account all the “old” types of bullying and harassment, but it also adds to it with what we seeing in today’s world, obesity, homosexuality, and, disabilities.
Schools must designate at least one staff member in each school to be trained in non-discriminatory instructional and counseling methods and handling the human relations side. For the purposes of this Act, harassment is defined as creating a hostile environment that unreasonably and substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance or well-being.
Bullying is the number one issue dealt with at schools. It is happening right here in Western New York so it isn’t surprising that we now have a new legislation. The “The Dignity for All Students Act” is the first major step on the government’s part. However it will take some planning and the Act doesn’t take effect until July 1, 2012. Check out the next article to see what a local school district is doing right now to combat bullying.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a national campaign called Stop Bullying Now. This website is two-fold, there is a part for adults to understand bullying and there are interactive games and information for kids as well.
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