Dignity for All Students Act information

  • Bullying, harassment and discrimination in NYS public schools

    A guide for parents

    DIGNITY FOR ALL STUDENTS ACT

    It is the policy of the State of New York, as set forth in the Dignity for All Students Act (“DASA”) as well as federal civil rights statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and all subsequent amendments, to afford all students in public schools an environment free from discrimination and harassment.

    In order to foster an environment which promotes and supports students’ ability to learn and to meet high academic standards in the Mechanicville City School District, the Board of Education is dedicated to ensuring the District promptly addresses any conduct which is inconsistent with the District’s educational mission or which detracts from a healthy and positive school climate,  including discriminatory or harassing behaviors as defined by the Dignity for All Students Act or related federal civil rights statutes set forth above. The Board of Education is committed to providing all its students with an environment free from discrimination and harassment and shall take steps to prevent harassment and discriminatory behaviors through educational measures designed to promote tolerance, respect for others and to promote awareness and sensitivity to discrimination or harassment to encourage civility and a climate of mutual respect, equality and dignity for all students on school grounds and at all school sponsored activities, programs or events.  Harassment against any student by any student or employee that creates a hostile environment by conduct will not be tolerated.  

    By combining prevention with education, the District’s goal is to decrease incidents of discrimination and harassment while simultaneously increasing awareness among students and staff to be sensitive and alert to the warning signs of bullying and harassment as well as their obligation to report or act when such acts occur.   Essential components of this effort shall include:

    • Instruction and strategies which identify early warning signs and precursor behaviors which, if left unaddressed, may lead to discrimination, harassment or bullying;

    • Gathering information related to harassment, discrimination or bullying from students, parents, school staff and the community;

    • Establishing school wide and classroom rules that clearly prohibit discrimination and harassment.

    • Providing instruction to students in civility and tolerance designed to promote a climate of mutual respect and dignity for all students.

    • Providing professional development and school wide training to staff to be able to identify, respond sensitively and consistently to incidents of harassment and bullying as well as to promoting tolerance and respect for all.

    • Providing adequate adult supervision, particularly in less structured areas such as hallways, cafeteria and playground, as applicable.

    • Notification to Parents as to District and school-wide efforts to become involved in preventing and addressing prohibited conduct and promoting a positive and healthy school environment.The Board directs the Superintendent to establish a district-wide task force on to develop administrative procedures to promote the early identification of bullying and harassment; to develop training and implementation educational programs and professional development for students and staff and to develop other preventive strategies and interventions.  The Board of Education will appoint a Dignity Act Coordinator for each school. The task force, in conjunction with the DAC shall develop procedures and forms for district-wide use for reporting, investigation, remediating, tracking and preventive actions taken to discourage reoccurrence instances of harassment or discrimination. In addition, the District will submit and report to the State on an annual basis material incidents of discrimination and harassment on school grounds or at school functions, using the SSEC reporting form developed by the State Education Department.

    The Board of Education recognizes the need to clearly define expectations for acceptable conduct on school property by staff and students and to identify the possible consequences of unacceptable conduct, to ensure that discipline is administered promptly and fairly when necessary.  To this end, the Board adopts this code of conduct. Unless otherwise indicated, the code of conduct applies to all students, school personnel, parents and other visitors when on school property or at school functions.  

    Prevention and Training

    The Board of Education directs training for employees, including school and district administrators, and instructional and non-instructional staff designed to promote a safe and supportive school climate while discouraging discrimination or harassment against students by students or school employees, including the use of safe and supportive school climate concepts in the curriculum and classroom.   The Board will review and approve training guidelines developed by the district-wide task force consistent with this training policy. This training may be provided in conjunction with existing professional development training or any other training for school employees.  

    Staff members and students will be educated to help create a climate of mutual respect and dignity for all students regardless of actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion or religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity or expression, actual or perceived) or sex which will help strengthen student’s confidence and promote learning.   Staff shall also be trained to recognize that under federal civil rights laws and regulations, students are protected from harassment by school employees, other students and third parties. They shall also be trained to understand that some student misconduct which violates or falls under the District’s anti-discrimination or anti-harassment policies may also implicate one or more of the federal civil rights laws enforced by the Office of Civil Rights of the Education Department.  

    Staff members will be provided training to raise awareness and sensitivity to potential acts of discrimination or harassment directed at students that are committed by students or school employees on school property or at school functions.  Staff members will be trained to recognize and respond to incidents of discrimination and harassment and to timely report incidents of discrimination and harassment that they witness or that are brought to a staff member’s attention. Through training, staff will learn to address personal biases that may prevent the equal treatment of all students in the school or classroom setting and to promote and maintain a climate of mutual respect and dignity for all students to strengthen student’s confidence and to promote learning.  Teachers and administrators will receive district-wide professional development. All staff with direct student contact will receive district-wide instruction on promoting a positive school environment free from discrimination and to discourage and respond to incidents of discrimination or harassment. The Superintendent and the Professional Development Coordinator will incorporate training to support this anti-discrimination and harassment policy into new teacher orientation and the annual professional development plan.  

    Student Instruction

    Students shall receive instruction in patriotism and citizenship as required by Section 801 of the Education Law.  In addition, students shall be instructed to raise awareness and sensitivity to discrimination or harassment and to promote civility in the relations of people of different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, genders, gender expressions or identities and sexes.  Curricular materials related to the above topics will be included in the instructional program for grades K-12. The District will use a variety of means to set forth clear expectations for student conduct and behavior, including a bill of rights and responsibilities for students which focuses on positive student behavior and the goal of promoting a safe and supportive school climate and learning environment for all students.     

    Dignity Act Coordinator

    The Board will designate at least one staff member in every school to serve as the Dignity Act Coordinator.  The Role of the Dignity Act Coordinator (“DAC”) is to coordinate and enforce this policy. The DAC shall be thoroughly trained in methods to respond to human relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression and sex.  The DAC shall be responsible for coordinating employee training, supporting implementation of district policy, ensuring inclusive curriculum to reinforce and promote tolerance and a harassment free environment. The DAC shall also serve as an accessible resource to students and staff related to this policy or prevention and response strategies.  

    The role of the DAC is a crucial in promoting a positive educational climate, therefore there must be an acting DAC at all times. In the event that a DAC vacates his or her position, another school employee shall be immediately designated for an interim appointment as the DAC, pending approval of a successor DAC by the Board of Education within thirty (30) days of the date the position was vacated.  In the event a DAC is unable to perform the duties of the position for an extended period of time, then another school employee shall be immediately designated as an interim appointment as the DAC, pending the return of the previous DAC to their duties.  

    To promote the communication between parents, teachers, students and other educational professionals and to publicize the availability of the DAC as a resource at each school, the name, designated school and contact information for each DAC shall be available on the district’s website; included in the plain language code of conduct summary provided to all parents and students before or at the beginning of each school year; included in at least one district or school mailing per school year and if the DAC changes, in at least one subsequent mailing as soon as practicable thereafter; by posting the contact information in highly visible areas of the school buildings and by making the contact information available at the District and school-level administrative offices.  

    Intervention

    Intervention at the earliest stage possible is the key to preventing escalation of harassment and discrimination and to encourage proactive resolution to promote a positive learning environment for all students.  Intervention efforts will emphasize measured, balanced and age-appropriate responses to the discrimination and harassment of students by students and/or employees focusing on education and should be designed to discourage another occurrence of the behavior.  

    Successful intervention may involve remedial measures.  Remedial responses to bullying and harassment include measures designed to correct the problem behavior, prevent another occurrence of the behavior and protect the target of the act.  Remediation may be targeted to the individual(s) involved in the harassing or discriminatory behavior or may include environmental approaches which are targeted to the school or district as a whole.  Individual-focused remedial measures may include, but are not limited to peer support groups; corrective instruction or other learning or service experience; supportive interventions; behavioral assessment or evaluation; behavioral management plans with closely monitored benchmarks; student counseling and parent conferences.  Environmental remediation strategies may include supervisory systems that empower school staff with prevention and intervention tools to address incidents of bullying and harassment; strategies for determining the conditions contributing to discriminatory behaviors; adoption of research-based, systemic harassment prevention programs; modification of schedules; adjustment in hallway traffic and other student routes of travel; targeted use of monitors; staff professional development; parent conferences; involvement of parent-teacher organizations and peer support groups.

    In addition to addressing the discriminatory or harassing conduct, intervention shall also include support and assistance to the student that was the target of the harassment as well as identification of prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment; to eliminate any hostile environment and to prevent such conduct from reoccurring.  When harassment has occurred, staff, in conjunction with the DAC, the parents and the student, as appropriate, shall review whether the student requires counseling support, accommodations or other services to remedy the effects of the harassment and if there is a need, shall provide such services or supports. Accommodations and on-going supports provided to a

    target of harassment shall be reviewed, as needed, to ensure that any safety concerns have been addressed and to determine whether accommodations or supports should be continued, adjusted or discontinued.  

    Reporting and Investigation

    The District recognizes its ongoing commitment to provide a safe and positive educational climate free from bullying and harassment and will publicize its policies and reporting expectations for incidents of harassment or discrimination.  To ensure effective and timely redress to incidents of bullying and harassment, students who have been harassed, students or staff who have witnessed what they believe to be an incident of bullying or harassment are encouraged and expected to promptly make a written or verbal complaint to school personnel in a manner consistent with publicized school-wide practices and guidance as soon as possible after the incident.  

    The district can’t effectively address harassment or bullying if incidents are not reported.  All school personnel have a duty to report incidents of student to student or staff to student harassment which they observe to their supervisor, the building administrator or the DAC.  If school personnel receive any reports of incidents of harassment against a student by staff or other student(s), they must promptly relay the report to their supervisor, the building administrator or to the DAC as set forth in the implementing procedures for this policy.  If a staff member is unfamiliar with the reporting procedure, it is their obligation to inquire about the process from their supervisor and to act accordingly. An employee who fails to report an observed incident, regardless of whether the student complains, may be deemed to have permitted unlawful discrimination or harassment.  

    Once the school knows of an alleged incident of harassment, there must be a timely investigation to determine what occurred.  Complaints shall be handled and documented in accordance with regulations and procedures developed by the district-wide task force in conjunction with the DAC.  The results of the investigation shall be reported back to both the target and the individual accused of harassing or discriminatory behavior or conduct. If either of the parties disagrees with the results of the investigation, they can appeal the findings in accordance with the procedures established by the district-wide task force to implement this policy.

                  The District will make a bullying complaint form available on its website and at the main office in each building to facilitate reporting.  The district will promptly and equitably investigate all complaints, formal or informal, verbal or written. In order to assist investigators, individuals should document the bullying as soon as it occurs and with as much detail as possible including: the nature of the incident(s); dates, times, places it has occurred; name of perpetrator(s); witnesses to the incident(s); and the target's response to the incident.

    If, after appropriate investigation, the district finds that a student, an employee or a third party has violated this policy, prompt corrective and possibly disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with the code of conduct, applicable collective bargaining agreement, district policy and state law.  If the reported behavior constitutes a civil rights violation, the complaint procedure associated with related anti-discrimination policies will be followed, as applicable. If either of the parties disagrees with the findings of the initial investigation, an appeal may be made to the Superintendent in accordance with the guidance procedures developed by the district wide task force.  

    To the extent possible, all complaints will be treated in a confidential manner, although limited disclosure may be necessary to complete a thorough investigation. The District will balance its legal obligation to conduct its investigation, to take necessary action to resolve the complaint and to provide procedural rights to the individual(s) accused of the harassment or discrimination through the investigation.   Individuals responsible for investigating complaints will discuss any concerns or issues related to confidentiality with the individuals involved. Complainants must be informed that the District’s need to respond effectively to the harassment and to prevent reoccurrence is a critical part of the investigation. All complainants shall be advised that district policy and federal law prohibit retaliation against complainants and witnesses.  If the complainant, witness or reporting staff member believes that they have experienced retaliation, they need to report this issue as soon as possible to the District for appropriate responsive action to address and to prevent retaliation from recurring, if applicable.  

    The reporting mechanism used for identifying instances of discrimination and harassment should be used to compile relevant information which may assist in assessing the school climate and the effectiveness (or challenges) related to interventions; staff training; guidance and forms or student educational programs.

    Disciplinary Consequences/Remediation

    Even with prevention and education, instances of discrimination or harassment may still occur.  Should such an instance arise, the individual engaging in the harassing or discriminatory conduct must be advised that their actions and conduct will not be tolerated and that their behavior must be changed immediately.  Students who engage in harassing or discriminatory conduct will receive guidance on making positive choices and support to understand how their actions have negatively impacted other student(s) and must not continue. As appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken by the building principal or other authorized administrator in accordance with the district’s Code of Conduct.  If the discriminatory or harassing behavior rises to the level of criminal activity, law enforcement will be contacted.

    Progressive discipline consequences will be considered in response to instances of discrimination or harassment and the individual imposing consequences shall consider the nature and severity of the misconduct, the developmental age of the student, and the student’s history of problem behaviors, prior interventions and the student’s response and must be imposed in a manner consistent with the district’s Code of Conduct.

    In addition to disciplinary measures, remedial responses should be considered to discern why the discrimination or harassment occurred and should be targeted to correct the problem behavior, prevent another occurrence of the behavior and protect the target of the act.  Remedial measures may be appropriate on an individual or school-wide basis, depending on the nature of the underlying misconduct.  

    Non-Retaliation for Reporting or Participating in an investigation when acting in good faith. Any person who has reasonable cause to suspect a student has been subject to discrimination by an employee or student on school grounds or at a school function who reports such information to school officials, the Commissioner or law enforcement, who reports and acts in good faith, shall be immune from civil liability from making such a report.  

    In addition, all complainants; those who participate in the investigation of a complaint in conformity with state law and district policies, or who are required to testify, participate or assist in the investigation procedure shall be free from retaliation of any kind and who have acted reasonably and in good faith, have the right to be free from retaliation of any kind.  

    Click here for a video guiding parents through the Dignity for All Students Act and information on bullying.

    Below you will also find a PowerPoint presentation outlining DASA and a brochure for parents with important information. 

     

    How do I know if my child is being bullied?

    What is harassment? Harassment is the creation of a hostile environment that unreasonably and substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being.

    What is bullying? Bullying includes such actions as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Bullying is an unwanted, aggressive intentional form of harassment that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

    What is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Examples of cyberbullying include hostile or threatening text messages, e-mails, posts on social networking sites and inappropriate pictures, videos, websites or fake profiles.

    What is discrimination?  Discrimination, as defined by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), is the “denial of equal treatment, admission and/or access to programs, facilities and services based on the person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity), or sex.”  

     

    Examples of bullying include, but are not limited to:

    Verbal: Name-calling, teasing,  sexual comments, taunting and threatening to cause harm.

    Social: Spreading rumors about someone, excluding others on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone and embarrassing someone in public.

    Physical: Hitting, punching, shoving, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s property and making mean or rude hand gestures. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)

     

    Signs that a child is being bullied:

     

    •         Be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. Signs of bullying include:
    •         Unexplainable injuries;
    •         Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry;
    •         Frequent headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick or faking illness to avoid school or social situations;
    •         Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating (kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch);
    •         Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares;
    •         Avoidance of such areas as the playground, cafeteria or restrooms;
    •         Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school;
    •         Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
    •         Loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed;
    •         Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem; and/or
    •         Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, self-harm or talking about suicide.

     

     

    Signs that a child is bullying others:

    Children may be bullying others if they:  

     

    •          Get into physical or verbal fights;
    •          Have friends who bully others;
    •          Are increasingly aggressive;
    •          Have no regard for other people’s feelings;
    •          Disrespect authority and/or rules;
    •          Disrespect the opposite gender and people of different races, ethnicities or religions;
    •          Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently;
    •          Have unexplained extra money or new belongings;
    •          Blame others for their problems;
    •          Lie to get out of trouble;
    •          Deliberately hurt pets or animals;
    •          Use anger to get what they want;
    •          Refuse to accept responsibility for their actions; and/or
    •          Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity.

     

     

    REMEMBER: Bullying almost always requires adult intervention.

     

    Roles kids play in a bullying situation

    Kids who bully: These children engage in bullying behavior toward their peers. There are many factors that may contribute to this behavior. Often, these youth require support to change their behavior and address any other challenges that may be influencing them. Don’t hesitate to speak to a counselor at your child’s school and ask for help.

    Kids who are bullied: Some factors put children at greater risk of being bullied,. If you are worried that your child is being bullied seek help from school administration or counselors right away.

    Bystanders – even kids who are not bullies and who are not bullied are impacted by bullying behavior. They witness it happening and they may either encourage it, avoid it or try to discourage it. These children may need support and help to deal with the bullying they observe; your school counselor can help!

     

    Most kids play more than one role in bullying over time. 

    It is important to note the multiple roles kids play, because those who are both bullied and bully others may be at more risk for negative outcomes, such as depression or suicidal tendencies. It also highlights the need to engage all kids in prevention efforts, not just those who are known to be directly involved.

     

    How do I talk to my child about bullying?

     

    •      Talk to your child about what bullying is and make sure he or she understands that it is unacceptable behavior. It is never too early to bring it up; for younger children talk about being mean rather than using the term bullying.
    •       Keep the lines of communication open with your child – know your child’s friends, ask about the school day, listen to any questions or concerns that arise.
    •       Tell your child to talk to you or a trusted adult at school if he or she is ever bullied – or ever witness an incident of bullying. Tell your child it’s okay to stand up to a bully by saying “STOP” or by simply walking away.
    •       Model how to treat others with respect and understanding
    •       Encourage a child to be involved in activities he/she enjoys. This will make him/her  more confident and boost self-esteem.

     

     

    What do I do if I think my child is being bullied?

            Get as much information as you can from your child – What happened? When? How many times did it happen? Who else was there? How did your child respond? How does your child feel about what happened? Is your child worried it will happen again?

            Listen. Don’t blame.

            Try to identify if it was, in fact, bullying. Don’t call it bullying until you’ve gathered all of the facts.

            If you believe your child is being bullied, contact your child’s teacher or school principal. These individuals are trained in the DASA requirements and can help you and your child.

            DASA requires every school in New York State to have a dignity act coordinator. This is someone who is trained to handle incidents of bullying and harassment in schools and is another important contact for parents. Contact information for this person can be found on your school district’s website or by calling your child’s school.

     

    What do I do if I think my child is a bully?

            Talk to your child about the specific behavior and why it is wrong. Does your child understand that the behavior is unacceptable?

            Calmly tell your child that bullying will not be tolerated.

            Ask your child WHY he or she bullied. Try to understand the reasons and offer solutions.

            Use consequences to teach – not humiliate.

            Call your child’s teacher, principal, social worker, guidance counselor to talk about what happened and strategies for moving forward.

            Continue to talk to your child about positive behavior and how his or her behavior impacts others.

     

    For more information about DASA in your school, contact your school’s Dignity Act Coordinator.

    Mechanicville Elementary School - Principal Stephen Marra - 664-7336

    Mechanicville Junior/Senior High School - Principal Kevin Kolakowski - 664-9888

    Web resources:

    -          NYSED: Dignity Act Resource Guide - A Resource and Promising Practices Guide for School Administrators & Faculty 

    -          www.stopbullying.gov

    Copyright 2014. Capital Region BOCES School Communications Portfolio; All rights reserved. For more information or permission to use, call 518-464-3960.

     

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