The Dignity Act

A Resource and Promising Practices Guide for School Administrators & Faculty

 

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PREFACE

The New York State Dignity for All Students Act (Dignity Act): A Resource and Promising Practices Guide for School Administrators and Faculty was developed by the Dignity Act Task Force to assist schools in implementing the Dignity for All Students Act. 

The Dignity Act added Article 2 to the Education Law (Education Law §§10 through 18).  These provisions took effect on July 1, 2012.  In June 2012, the Legislature enacted Chapter 102 of the Laws of 2012, which amended the Dignity Act, effective July 1, 2013, to, among other things, include cyberbullying as part of the definition of “harassment and bullying” (Education Law §11[7], [8]) and require instruction in safe, responsible use of the Internet and electronic communications (Education Law §801-a). Chapter 102 also included a requirement that school professionals applying for a certificate or license on or after July 1, 2013 complete training on the social patterns of harassment, bullying and discrimination.  However, this timeframe was extended until December 31, 2013 pursuant to Chapter 90 of the Laws of 2013 (Education Law §14[5]).(1)

This resource guide, originally released in 2012, has been updated to reflect these amendments to the Dignity Act. In using this guide, it is important to distinguish between legal requirements and/or recommended practices. It is also important that communications be consistent in the use of terms and concepts. An absence of such consistency can lead to misinformation and confusion which does not advance the purpose of the Dignity Act.

This resource guide includes links to web sites that contain information, resources, and tools to assist in the implementation of the Dignity Act in your school. Please evaluate each resource to determine if it is developmentally age appropriate for your school population. The State Education Department and the Dignity Act Task Force do not endorse any particular programs. The intent of this document is to provide information only.  School districts, charter schools, and BOCES should consult with their school attorneys regarding specific legal questions.  Analyses of examples and hypothetical situations contained herein do not represent official determination(s) or interpretation(s) by the Department.  Scenarios described in this Guide may be the subject of an appeal to the Commissioner of Education under section 310 of the Education Law; as a result, the information contained herein is advisory only and does not necessarily represent the official legal interpretation of the State Education Department.

The Dignity Act states that it is the policy of the State of New York to afford all students in public schools an environment free of discrimination and harassment (Education Law §10).  Educators are encouraged to incorporate into core subject areas the principles embodied by the Dignity Act:  that no student shall be subject to harassment or bullying by employees or students on school property or at a school function; nor shall any student be subjected to discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived: race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity or expression), or sex.

To promote civility in public schools, and to prevent and prohibit conduct which is inconsistent with a school's educational mission, the Dignity Act requires every school district in New York State to include an age appropriate version of the State policy in its Code of Conduct (Education Law §12[2]).

Schools are encouraged to use the resources in this guide to assist in augmenting or developing programs and lessons.  In addition, any core subject area can incorporate Dignity Act principles into a lesson.  Examples of this strategy may include the following:

  • If you are teaching students about the food chain in science class, add questions that ask the students to compare the social environment at school to the food chain. Questions could be focused on roles of various groups in school culture, interactions between those groups, respect and roles of each group in the social structure, and respect of diversity within the school culture. 
  • You may also have students study great leaders, in whatever subject you teach, who were maligned and shunned for being different or ahead of their time. Their life stories will inspire students and help to introduce discussion topics.

The following resources could serve as a critical foundation in developing a comprehensive Dignity Act program in your school:

Educating the Whole Child Engaging the Whole School: Guidelines and Resources for Social and Emotional Development and Learning (SEDL) in New York State
www.p12.nysed.gov/sss/sedl/SEDLguidelines.pdf

This guidance document aims to give New York State school communities a rationale and the confidence to address child and adolescent affective development as well as cognitive development. By attending to social-emotional factors that may affect students’ brain development and creating conditions where school environments are safe and supportive, teachers can teach more effectively, students can learn better, and parents and the community can feel pride in a shared enterprise.  The guidelines and accompanying resources seek to persuade school leaders, faculties, planning teams and parents that social and emotional development and learning can be achieved through a range of approaches that serve as entry points and avenues for expansion.

U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Students
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/oshs/index.htmlexternal link icon

The federal Office of Safe and Healthy Students provide resources to school districts to implement programs and services to prevent violence in schools, as well as drug and substance abuse. Information on this page is directly related to the requirements and provisions of the Act and is especially suited for administrators and others interested in understanding these requirements.  This includes resources related to anti-bullying and positive school environment resources.  


(1) Detailed information on New York State’s requirements for certification as a teacher or other educational professional may be found on the Office of Teaching Initiatives web site at: http://www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert

 

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Last Updated: March 11, 2014