New York State’s Dignity For All Students Act took effect on July 1, 2012. Just as with the District’s Code of Conduct, the law seeks to provide public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, bullying, including cyberbullying on school property, a school bus, and/or at a school function. The Dignity Act includes but is not limited to, acts of discrimination and harassment based on a student’s race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and expression), or sex.
Valley Central has programs and initiatives in place in our schools, aimed at promoting tolerance and bullying prevention district-wide. These initiatives include Character Education, Bucket Filling and PBIS at the elementary schools; cultural responsiveness training and small group work at the Middle School, the Cultural Diversity Club and the Race, Identity and Justice and World Issues courses at the High School.
Our Dignity Act Coordinators are based at each building and are trained to address issues regarding bullying prevention
The Board of Education recognizes that learning environments that are safe and supportive can increase student attendance and improve academic achievement. A student’s ability to learn and achieve high academic standards, and a school’s ability to educate students, is compromised by incidents of discrimination, harassment or bullying, including but not limited to cyberbullying, taunting and intimidation.
Therefore, in accordance with the Dignity for All Students Act, Education Law, Article 2, the District will strive to create an environment free of discrimination and harassment and will foster civility in the schools to prevent and prohibit conduct which is inconsistent with the District’s educational mission. The District condemns and prohibits all forms of discrimination, harassment or bullying of students based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex by school employees or students on school property and at school-sponsored activities and events that take place at locations off school property. In addition, actions taken outside of school sponsored events, where it is foreseeable that the conduct, threats, intimidation or abuse might reach school property, may be subject to discipline.
Instruction in grades Kindergarten through 12 shall include a component on civility, citizenship and character education. Such component shall instruct students on the principles of honesty, tolerance, personal responsibility, respect for others, observance of laws and rules, courtesy, dignity and other traits which will enhance the quality of their experiences in, and contributions to, the community. ( BOE POLICY 5311.9)
For the purposes of this policy, “tolerance,” “respect for others” and “dignity” shall include awareness and sensitivity to discrimination or harassment and civility in the relations of people of different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, genders and sexes.
Rules against discrimination and harassment will be included in the Code of Conduct, publicized District-wide and disseminated to all staff and parents. An age-appropriate summary shall be distributed to all students at a school assembly at the beginning of each school year.
Reports and Investigations of Discrimination and Harassment
Any student or parent can go directly to the Dignity Act Coordinators should there be concerns. Children may also speak to any staff member if they feel that they are the victim of bullying or discrimination on the basis of any bias.
The Valley Central School District official responsible for the coordination of procedures related to compliance with Title IX, the statute which prohibits gender-based discrimination is Marianne Serratore, Assistant Superintendent at ext. 18142, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The District will investigate all complaints of harassment and discrimination, either formal or informal, and take prompt corrective measures, as necessary. Complaints will be investigated in accordance with applicable policies and regulations. If, after an appropriate investigation, the District finds that this policy has been violated, corrective action will be taken in accordance with District policies and regulations, the Code of Conduct, and all appropriate federal or state laws.
The District will annually report material incidents of discrimination and harassment to the State Education Department as part of the Uniform Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting System (VADIR). Prohibition of Retaliatory Behavior (Commonly Known as “Whistle-Blower” Protection) Any person who has reasonable cause to suspect that a student has been subjected to discrimination or harassment by an employee or student, on school grounds or at a school function, who acts reasonably and in good faith and reports such information to school officials or law enforcement authorities, shall have immunity from any civil liability that may arise from making such report. The Board prohibits any retaliatory behavior directed at complainants, victims, witnesses and/or any other individuals who participated in the investigation of a complaint of discrimination or harassment.
The Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) went into effect July 1, 2012. Its intent is to create more nurturing school environments free of discrimination and harassment of students by students and by school personnel.
The Dignity Act defines harassment as “the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or by verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being; or conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety…” New York Education Law § 11(7).
Under the Dignity Act, harassment includes conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse based on a person’s actual or perceived:
- National origin
- Ethnic group
- Religious practice
- Sexual orientation
The list of characteristics above is not exclusive- harassment may include conduct based on other characteristics as well. Also note that harassment may be based on actual or perceived characteristics, for example, a student’s perceived sexual orientation.
From the NYS Education Department’s Brochure on the Dignity Act:
Q: Who is protected by the Dignity Act?
A: All public elementary and secondary school students are protected by the Dignity Act.
Q: What does the Dignity Act prohibit?
A: The Dignity Act prohibits the harassment and discrimination of students by students and by school personnel.
Q: How does the Dignity Act relate to bullying and hazing?
A: Bullying and hazing are forms of harassment and discrimination.
Q: What physical spaces are covered by the Dignity Act?
A: 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.
Q: How does the Dignity Act relate to the school’s Code of Conduct?
A: The Code of Conduct must be amended to reflect the prohibition of discrimination and harassment of students by students or staff– in age appropriate plain language.
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