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Dignity for All Students Act (DASA)

Introduction

The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) was enacted by the State of New York in 2010, and implemented in July 2012. Its purpose is to provide students with a school environment that is free of discrimination and harassment by peers and school personnel.

DASA covers behaviors on school property, the school bus and at school sponsored events or functions. Incidents of harassment and discrimination covered include; threats, intimidation or abuse based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity or expression. DASA is intended to protect all students.

Fast facts:

  • As of July 2013, DASA includes cyberbullying.
  • DASA applies to all public schools, charters and BOCES.
  • DASA requires classroom instruction that supports the development of a school environment free of discrimination and harassment.

What is bullying?

Bullying is an intentional act of aggression, based on an imbalance of power, that is meant to harm a victim either physically or psychologically. It usually occurs repeatedly and over time, however, sometimes can be identified as a single event.

“Harassment” and “Bullying” Under DASA

Harassment and bullying are described as the creation of a hostile environment by:

  • conduct
  • threats (verbal and non-verbal)
  • intimidation (verbal and non-verbal)
  • abuse (verbal and non-verbal)
  • includes cyberbullying

Under DASA, no student shall be subjected to harassment, discrimination, or bullying by employees or students on school property or at a school function, that creates a hostile environment by conduct, with or without physical contact and/or by verbal threats, intimidation or abuse, of such a severe nature that…

  1. has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being.
  2. reasonably cause or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety.  Such conduct shall include, but is not limited to, threats, intimidation or abuse based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practices, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.
  3. can include activities outside school sponsored events which can reasonably be expected to materially and substantially disrupt the educational process.

Staff can be guilty of bullying or harassment

  • Offensive comments
  • Name-calling (beware of nicknames)
  • Inappropriate jokes (classroom, texts, emails)

DASA § 16 No Retaliation/Immunity

Individuals who report discrimination and harassment in good faith are given complete immunity. No school district or employee may retaliate against a person who makes a report of alleged discrimination or harassment.

Potential for Liability

  • School districts may violate these civil rights statutes when peer harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex or disability creates a hostile environment and is either encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed or ignored by school employees.
  • Conduct creates a hostile environment when it is so sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent that it interferes with a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by a school.

Actual Knowledge of Conduct

True or False: Employees must have “actual knowledge” of the bullying.

FALSE. The Office of Civil Rights has opined that a school is sufficiently placed on notice of harassing behavior where the harassment occurs in plain sight, is widespread or well-known to students and staff, occurs in the hallways, during academic or physical education classes, occurs during extracurricular activities, at recess, on a school bus or through graffiti in public areas (knew or should have known).

Reporting Incidents

Minor incidents should be dealt with immediately at the classroom level.

Serious incidents or recurring incidents should be reported to the building principal or other person designated by the District. It is better to err on the side of caution in reporting.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) applies here and incidents should be shared solely on the “need to know” basis.

Timeline for Reporting Incidents

  • Day One: the day of the incident
  • Day Two: the latest to orally report to the designated faculty member
  • Day Three
  • Day Four: the latest to submit a written report to the designee

Reporting Procedures

  • Staff members receiving information on a bullying incident prepares a written record of the details (via the Incident Report Form) and notifies administration.
  • Parents and/or students who report an incident should be assured that such information is taken seriously.
  • Investigate. Meet with the victim, offenders and any witnesses.
  • Follow up with students and parents.
  • Assign consequences and/or appropriate interventions.
  • Document