Dignity of All Students Act changes Code of Conduct

Jacob Bloch, Contributing Writer

Numerous instances of suicide and self-harm caused by verbal and cyberbullying have affirmed the power of words. In order to combat harassment and create a safe environment in schools, New York State has implemented a new piece of legislation entitled the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).

DASA recently took effect in all New York State public schools which had to revise and update Codes of Conduct inorder to comply with the new requirements set by the Dignity Act. Legislators signed DASA into law on Sept. 13, 2010, and it took effect on July 1 of this year.

According to the New York State Education Department, the Dignity Act aims to expand policies enforcing tolerance of “different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and sexes.”

Although the state added new procedures and other additions to State Education Laws to comply with DASA, Schreiber and the entire district has enforced these policies since before the act was signed into law.

In accordance with guidelines set by the state, the distict has appointed three Dignity Act Coordinators in every school—one administrator, one psychologist, and one guidance counselor. Coordinators as well as all teachers received training. In Schreiber, the coordinators are principal Mr. Ira Pernick, Assistant principal Dr. Brad Fizgerald, and social worker Ms. Adriana Najera-Pollack.

“I support any legislation that helps all students,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick. “There are some changes, but that doesn’t mean that there are any changes to school practices. Even though the law technically covers more citizens, such as on sexual orientation, we were already enforcing those policies anyway.”

“There is not going to be any big change to the kids or schools due to the Dignity Act because we always treated issues the same way each time it occurs,” said Assistant Principal Dr. Brad Fitzgerald. “But what we do like about the Act is that schools no longer have to do it on their own. Now the government put it on paper. One other benefit is that it formalizes record keeping by already having the twelve protected categories set in stone.”

Students received copies of the adjusted district code of conduct in social studies classes.

“We did it through the social studies department because we felt that they had the best expertise in an area like this,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. “Each teacher presented the Dignity Act to each classroom allowed for question and answer. It’s going to be much more highlighted to be stopped by your own teacher. We are stopping instruction just to deliver this message.”

Thus far, students have expressed varying opinions about the Dignity Act.

“Of course, bullying and discrimination are already bad things and not something which should be practiced in our school,” said sophomore Andrew Vavaro. “Therefore, DASA really does not have any impact, on me at least.”

Others took slightly different approaches to the DASA.

“I think that it is a little extreme at certain points,” said sophomore Rachel Ellerson. “For example, it takes away the ability to talk about someone, even if it is harmless teasing. People joke around. But, that does not mean it is bullying. However, I do think it has some good points to it. Some of those things include making certain actions illegal which weren’t before, such as harassment or bullying because of sexual orientation.”