N.Y. schools move against bullying

Monday April 30, 2012


Staff Writer

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- School boards are in the midst of revising policy manuals to reflect changes in state law governing how schools respond to instances of bullying and harassment.

Provisions of the Dignity for All Students Act, signed into law by Gov. David Paterson in September 2010, take effect July 1 for the 2012-13 school year. Many of the requirements of DASA, dealing with how districts react to bullying, including universal reporting and a single complaint process, have begun to be introduced in area schools.

At their regular meeting earlier this month, Hoosick Falls Central School Board of Education members approved a "first read" of applicable new and revised board policies relating to "student harassment and bullying prevention and intervention," as a result of DASA.

Covers ‘electronic’ bullying

Superintendent Kenneth Facin said the new policies were a positive step and held students accountable to a level of conduct both on and off school grounds. He said the legislation allows administrators to respond to harassing behavior that might take place off-campus (or electronically), but in turn affects the in-school environment.

"This is a good mandate," said Facin, at the April 19 meeting where board members approved draft versions of five policies dealing with definitions, prohibited student conduct, and public conduct on school property. The board has two additional opportunities for review and discussion before the policies are formally adopted later this year.

DASA amends state education law to require schools foster environments "free of harassment," through revising their codes of conduct with age-appropriate language, adopting guidelines to be used in instructor training, and designating at least one staff member as a designated contact for handling bullying. That coordinator position is required to receive additional training to recognize and respond effectively to cases of bullying, and also work to implement prevention strategies at the school.

Local school districts have leeway in creating and adopting their own guidelines for training and prevention, and policies for responding to harassment and discrimination, although the law will require schools report incidents of bullying to the state Education Department on at least an annual basis so that school performance can be evaluated.


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