What is the Dignity Act?
The New York State (NYS) Dignity for All Students (Dignity Act), Chapter 482 of the Laws of 2010, was signed into law on September 13, 2010, effective July 1, 2012. The Dignity Act prohibits harassment and discrimination of individuals on school property or at a school function based upon a person's actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
The Dignity Act amends Section 801-a of NYS Education Law regarding instruction in civility, citizenship, and character education by expanding the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity. The Dignity Act further amends Section 2801 of the Education Law requiring Boards of Education and BOCES to include language addressing the legislative requirements in their codes of conduct.
Research indicates that there is a direct link between success in school and the school environment in which student learning takes place. Students are more likely to achieve their full potential in schools that have a positive school culture and an environment in which students feel safe and supported. Creating a school culture of respect is important and hard work. The goal of the Dignity Act is to promote a safe and supportive learning environment in all public schools, free from harassment and discrimination.
The NYS Dignity Coalition comprised of over 120 national, state, and local organizations, including NYSUT, worked for the better part of a decade to see the Dignity Act enacted; all were involved in some way in promoting the law's enactment. More importantly, these organizations are now invested in the meaningful implementation of this legislation that will significantly bolster NYS public schools' commitments to tolerance, respect, and dignity.
The Board of Regents Dignity Act Task Force, created in January 2011, is comprised of key stakeholders in the education community and advocates, including many members of the New York State Dignity Coalition. The NYS Education Department staff continues to guide the Dignity Act Task Force, charged with conducting research and making recommendations to the Board of Regents.