ALBANY, N.Y. June 23, 2010 — New York State United Teachers today hailed the state Senate’s passage of the Dignity for all Students Act, and urged Gov. Paterson to quickly sign the bill into law so that all students are free from bullying and harassment and are provided a safe place in which to learn.
The legislation — long sought by NYSUT and a wide range of civil-rights groups — would establish reporting requirements, as well as clear procedures for responding to incidents. The bill also calls for the prevention of harassment and bullying through education by training students and staff on how to foster a learning environment free of harassment based on a person’s race, national origin, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
“Bullying and harassment in any form are disruptive to a student’s ability to learn and a threat to the safety and security our children, and their parents, have a right to expect when students are at school,” said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi.
New York is one of only eights states nationwide without an anti-bullying law.
“The issue of bullying is nothing less than a civil-rights issue,” said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, who coordinates the union's social justice efforts. “Schools must be a haven for safety so that we can ensure our children’s well-being and provide them with an environment that fosters learning and the opportunity for success.”
NYSUT, in pushing for passage of the legislation, was part of the Dignity for All Students coalition, which also includes the Anti-Defamation League; the Empire Pride Agenda; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; and the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The Senate’s passage of the act follows passage by the Assembly in May. The governor, in proposing his own program bill to address harassment and bullying, also has shown his willingness to address this serious issue.
Andrew Pallotta, NYSUT’s executive vice president who oversees the union’s legislative and political operations, said, “We applaud the Legislature’s action on this very important matter, and we urge the governor to sign the Dignity for All Students Act into law. This issue has been allowed to languish far too long.”
NYSUT, the state’s largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.