[author: Beth P. Zoller, XpertHR Legal Editor]
On July 1, 2012, the Dignity For All Students Act (DASA) will take effect in New York State. This law directly impacts school districts and school employees as it amends the New York State Education Law and provides that no student shall be subject to discrimination or harassment by employees, or students on school property or at a school function on the basis of the student's actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender expression), or sex. +NY CLS Educ § 12.
The new law applies to all programs or activities conducted by public school districts in New York State, however, it does not apply to private or religious schools. +NY CLS Educ § 17.
To ensure compliance with this new law, school districts in New York should review their codes of conduct and, where deficient, revise or adopt policies and practices aimed at creating an educational environment free from harassment and discrimination.
The law requires that school districts do the following:
Implement provisions prohibiting discriminatory and harassing conduct that creates a hostile work environment and interferes with a student's educational performance and well-being or reasonably causes a student to fear for his or her physical safety. This includes physical conduct as well as verbal threats, intimidation or abuse;
Implement provisions for school employees to prevent and respond to acts of discrimination or harassment;
Distribute a student code of conduct which contains an age- appropriate version of the policy against discrimination and harassment and focuses on promoting a safe and supportive school environment;
Implement training programs for educating all school employees regarding the importance of promoting a safe school climate and eliminating discrimination and harassment;
Incorporate discrimination and harassment training and sensitivity into the school curriculum and staff training;
Appoint a staff member trained in human relations counseling with respect to bullying and harassment; and
Report all incidents of discrimination or harassment to the New York State Education Department.
+NY CLS Educ § 2801; +NY CLS Educ § 12; +NY CLS Educ § 13; +NY CLS Educ § 801-a.
The law also provides that persons who report a claim or discrimination or harassment shall not be subject to retaliation. +NY CLS Educ § 16.