The Dignity for All Students Act, a New York State law which was legislated in September 2010, finally went into effect this past July 1st, 2012.
The law is not new, but is an amendment to an already existing law; DASA added a new Article 2 to the State Education Law as well as amending Section 801-a concerning educating students to civility, citizenship, and character improvement through teaching and expanding on the concepts of tolerance, respect and dignity. Guidelines in the new law include teaching students to have more awareness and sensitivity in their relations with others, including understanding differences among people such as race, weight, gender identity and other diversity issues.
According to Superintendent Margaret Puzio of the Batavia City School System, the new law is something that needs to be taken seriously:
“It’s a law. It’s making students accountable on a higher level” she said. “We’re not kidding around anymore on this stuff.”
The law provides for a minimum of one employee at every school to have professional training in human relations with a special emphasis on the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender and sex.
In Rye Brook two committees of teachers were trained during the last week in September to teach the rest of the elementary and secondary school staff at the Blind Brook Schools on how to create a school environment which is free from “discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying.”
“This is an initiative that really requires the involvement of everyone that works in the school building” said Mary Mediate, director of guidance and a Dignity Act coordinator at the Blind Brook Schools.
According to commentator Corey Ribotsky, CEO and Chairman of the Ribotsky Institute, in order to see a real change in behavior, parents need to be integrated into the process of making the school environment a more tolerant place for kids.
“Many parents of children who have been identified by school officials as consistently discriminating, bullying or harassing other kids turn a deaf ear to this behavior. This is a common factor in our society that needs to change drastically” says Ribotsky.
Ribotsky adds that it is not enough for parents to participate with the schools in helping their children change; the parents must do some changing themselves:
“Then we as parents must do the unthinkable. Stop judging one another and accept each other as human beings. Is that possible? Well it certainly is but we have to be able to make that happen. If we teach our children these lessons that not one person is better than the next because of ethnicity, economic background or any other variable then we are off to a good start. Our society is too focused on who said what, who did what with whom and what the Jones family has or doesn’t have.”
“We are citizens of the world should take pride in being just that and not try to make ourselves have more self-worth by thinking we are better than anyone else. Try it in your home and maybe we can all make a difference” concludes Ribotsky.