DASA for parents
Dignity for All Students: Promoting respect in a safe learning environment
A culture of respect and tolerance is expected at HFM BOCES
The reasons why people discriminate against one another are complex, but inappropriate behavior cannot be tolerated in an educational setting, especially when it becomes harassing or bullying.
Since the New York State Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) became law in 2012, schools and BOCES across the state receive extra support for their efforts to provide a safe learning environment for its students and staff.
The law defines harassment or bullying as any action that creates a hostile environment and has the effect of “unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical wellbeing.”
The Dignity Act applies to behavior on school property (including athletic fields, playgrounds, and parking lots), in school buildings, on a school bus/vehicle, as well as at school-sponsored events or activities.
Amendments to the law also emphasize cyberbullying, and broaden the arm of protection for students harassed through electronic media. Because of the reach of electronic communication, even activity occurring off school property may create or be expected to create a substantial disruption in school, allowing school leaders to respond to those incidents.
DASA specifically requires schools and BOCES to:
• Talk to their students and staff annually about the behavioral expectations in the code of conduct.
• Provide and explain a student bill of rights and responsibilities—written in plain language—that focuses upon positive student behavior and a safe and supportive school climate.
• Train district staff for increased awareness and sensitivity to potential discrimination or harassment and equip them to prevent and respond to discrimination or harassment.
• Take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end harassment that has occurred, eliminate any hostile environment and prevent it from reoccurring. The new law requires staff “who know or reasonably should know of possible harassment, to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.”
DASA requires schools to create employee-training programs so everyone has the tools to promote a positive school environment and to discourage and respond quickly to incidents of harassment, bullying and discrimination.
In addition, teachers are required to teach students the concepts of a safe and supportive school climate as part of their regular curriculum and classroom instruction.
In other words, schools must now actively teach their staff and students how to live out the golden rule; Treat others the way you would want them to treat you.
What is a Dignity Act Coordinator?
The law requires at least one employee in every school to be appointed a Dignity Act Coordinator by the Board of Education and thoroughly trained in methods to respond to human relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practices, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.
Schools are responsible for selecting coordinators whom students trust and are comfortable talking with, and for providing easy, confidential access to the coordinators.
Dignity Act Coordinators (DAC) – at least one for every division in HFM BOCES and for every building where BOCES staff work – are intentionally chosen to be a safe place for targeted students, witnesses and aggressors to talk privately about incidents.