Niagara Gazette

Communities

September 30, 2012

Bringing 'Dignity' to local schools

Niagara Gazette — In the month of September, students making their way back to their schools usually spend a bit of time acclimating themselves to their new surroundings. Whether it be new classmates, room assignments, teachers or buildings, something different is presented to everyone.

This year, a new law is rearing its head which has a massive effect on each student in New York state. The Dignity For All Students Law went into effect in July and addresses one of life's largely overlooked and criticized experiences: bullying.

"New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act — or The Dignity Act — seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying on school property, a school bus or at a school function," according to the state Education Department's website, www.nysed.gov.

It's easy to think The Dignity Act was created in response to some of the state's recent tragedies concerning bullies, especially last year's suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, the Williamsville student who took his own life after years of constant harassment. Or Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University student who jumped from the George Washington Bridge in 2010 after his roommate and another student captured video of him kissing another man.

But this isn't the case. State lawmakers passed the bill in September 2010 a whole year before the Rodemeyer tragedy (and though it doesn't affect a college campus setting, nine days before Clementi jumped).

The act itself does two major things. Most importantly, the act outlaws both bullying and harassment in any form — including perceived but not actually happening – according to different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identity and sexes. It also requires each student, faculty member or administrator to report each instance.

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