A Resource and Promising Practices Guide for School Administrators & Faculty
SECTION III: THE DIGNITY ACT COORDINATOR
Identifying and Appointing the Dignity Act Coordinator (DAC)
To comply with the Dignity Act, at least one staff member in each school must be designated as the DAC and be thoroughly trained to handle human relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (defined to include gender identity or expression), and sex (Education Law §13).
It is recommended that the employee designated as the DAC be an individual who is respected by the school community and whose recommendations and counsel will be valued and heeded by all stakeholders. It is equally important that the individual is someone with whom both students and colleagues feel comfortable speaking regarding the serious and often difficult issues of discrimination and harassment.
Additional criteria for identifying an employee to serve as a DAC may also include, but is not limited to, prior training in areas such as human relations, cultural diversity, bullying prevention and intervention and/or conflict resolution and/or demonstrated expertise in any of these or related areas.
Commissioner’s Regulation 8 NYCRR 100.2(jj) requires that the school DAC be approved by the board of education or the trustees or sole trustee of the school district, or, in school districts in a city having a population of more than one million inhabitants, by the principal of the school building in which the designated individual is employed.
If the individual serving as the DAC vacates his or her position as the DAC, another employee must be immediately designated as an interim DAC pending approval of a new DAC by the board of education, trustees or sole trustee of the school district, or in the case of school districts in a city having a population of more than one million inhabitants, the school building principal.
Accessibility to students and staff is an important consideration when identifying the DAC. It is especially important that students have someone available to whom they can reach out to Monday through Friday. To promote accessibility, a school may wish to consider creating a dedicated Dignity Act email address for the DAC as a means of facilitating outreach and addressing allegations of harassment or discrimination. In addition, the name and contact information for the DAC must be shared with all school personnel, students, and persons in parental relation.
Benefits of Identifying Multiple Dignity Act Coordinators
While the Dignity Act requires only one DAC in each school, schools may want to consider identifying multiple DACs. Research conducted by GLSEN has suggested that a team of employees is better equipped to respond to bias-based harassment than is an individual. Creating a group of DACs increases the likelihood that an individual student will consider one or more DAC as someone they trust and with whom they feel comfortable speaking about a specific concern. Having multiple DACs also creates a cohort of trained staff who can serve as a resource for colleagues and students when they wish to implement class or school wide initiatives that promote respect for diversity and/or address harassment. Regardless of the number of DACs a school designates, each student should know who the DACs are.
Schools may choose to use the professional development requirement for teachers as a means of encouraging a team approach at the school level. Depending on school and/or district policy, a school may accept professional development hours in areas such as human relations, cultural diversity, bullying prevention and intervention, bias prevention and intervention, social emotional learning, and/or conflict resolution or other areas related to the Dignity Act which will assist the school in developing a cadre of thoroughly trained teaching staff.
Allegations of Student-to-Student Harassment and/or Discrimination
New York State Education Law requires every school district to have a Code of Conduct, including procedures for enforcement of the code.
Regardless of whether a student makes an allegation of student-to-student or staff-to-student harassment or discrimination directly to the DAC or to another school employee, allegations of Dignity Act-related incidents must be investigated and appropriately responded to in the same manner as all other infractions of the Code of Conduct and in accordance with any and/or all other applicable school and/or district policies and procedures related to student discipline.
Investigating and Responding to Allegations of Staff-to-Student Harassment and/or Discrimination
In the case of a report of alleged staff-to-student harassment and/or discrimination, reporting, investigation, and response must follow all applicable school and/or district policies and procedures, including contractual provisions and due process obligations related to staff-to-student misconduct.
Parent Reports of Allegations of Student-to-Student and/or Staff-to-Student Harassment and/or Discrimination
Schools should establish procedures for parents or persons in parental relation to contact the school regarding concerns about the safety, health, and welfare of their children. The purpose of these procedures should be to provide parents or persons in parental relation a system through which they can report allegations of student-to-student harassment or discrimination/bias-based behavior. Allegations of staff-to-student misconduct by persons in parental relation should be made to the principal, Dignity Act Coordinator, and/or other designated district supervisor. Such reports must be addressed pursuant to all applicable school/district policies and procedures related to allegations of staff-to-student misconduct.