(NEW YORK, NY) September 10, 2010 – New York Governor David Paterson signed into law the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), which aims to address and prevent bias-based harassment and bullying in K-12 schools statewide. The Sikh Coalition joined dozens of other advocacy organizations and elected officials in supporting this new law. The purpose of the bill, which was introduced by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell and Senator Tom Duane, “is to afford all students an environment free of any harassment that substantially interferes with their education, regardless of the basis of the harassment, and free of discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.” Sikh Coalition research shows that two out of three turban-wearing Sikh students in New York City public schools experience harassment or bullying because of their Sikh identities. The Coalition and ally organizations such as the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the New York Civil Liberties Union have worked tirelessly alongside youth and community members to address bullying in NYC schools, resulting in the creation of Chancellor’s Regulation A-832 in September 2008. “While the Chancellor’s Regulation was a strong step for Sikh students and other students targeted by bullying in NYC schools,” stated Sonny Singh of the Sikh Coalition, “a law is even stronger. The new DASA law will bring the NYC Department of Education to an even higher standard of protecting all students from bigotry and will apply to every school district in the entire state. We applaud the state Senate and Assembly for passing the bill and Governor Paterson for signing this critical legislation.” “Every student has the right to a safe and civil educational environment, but far too often young people are ruthlessly targeted by bullies,” Governor Paterson 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. 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.” To read Governor Paterson’s remarks in full, click here. According to the Governor’s office, the new law, effective July 2012, will require New York public 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.
The Dignity for All Students Act can be read in its entirety here. We encourage community members to thank the Governor for signing this legislation that is so crucial for Sikh children by sending him an email.