Back in September, amid much celebration and back-patting, Governor Patterson signed into law the "Dignity for All Students Act,' which, following most of the country, outlaws bullying in New York's public schools, and also requires the schools to do the following:
• Revise their codes of conduct and adopt policies intended to create a school environment free from harassment and discrimination;
• Adopt guidelines to be used in school training programs to raise awareness and sensitivity of school employees to these issues and to enable them to respond appropriately; and,
• Designate at least one staff member in each school to be trained in non-discriminatory instructional and counseling methods and handling human relations.
But, in my view, what's missing from this law is far more important:
What happens if the school violates this anti-bullying law?
From my reading of the statute, absolutely nothing. Therein lies the problem; there is no consequence - serious or otherwise - if the school fails to comply with this law.
As a result, it appears that this new law does not afford the victims of bullying any greater protection than they otherwise had beforehand. (For more on this topic, see "Can a School Be Held Liable for Bullying Under New York Law").
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