In the spirit of the start of the new school year, the New York State Young Democrats applaud the signing of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), into law yesterday by Governor Paterson. DASA aims to eliminate harassment and discrimination based on race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex, demonstrating the Governor’s and Legislature’s commitment to ensuring that all students have a safe environment in which to learn.
NYSYD most specifically salutes the provisions of this new law that will prohibit harassment or discrimination against students or employees while on school property and codifying the definition of harassment as the creation of a hostile environment by conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that would interfere with academic performance.
A survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) stated that 52% of students who describe themselves as the victims of bullying say they were harassed because they were perceived to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Only 5% of these students actually identified themselves as such.
NYSYD President Kevin Lawrie said, As an organization that seeks to help develop leaders of the future, our mission is not all that different than that of most of our educators. It has always been the goal of NYSYD to ensure that the leadership of the next generation is perfectly equipped to serve the people of our Country and State. The signing of DASA is a monumental occasion moving towards true equal rights for members of the LGBT community and will also allow students and teachers alike to focus on the tasks at hand inside the classroom. On behalf of all of the members of the New York State Young Democrats, I commend the Governor and Legislature on taking this unique and inclusive approach to improving the quality of education for our students and raising the quality of life for young members of the LGBT community.
Even though this law does not take effect until 2012, NYSYD would like to see that this law be used as a model for school teachers and administrators all over New York for how to address one of our education systems most prominent problems until DASA‘s protections are fully effective. Every student must be afforded the same opportunity to learn the required material and our students should not have to wait until the 2012 school year to be fully protected from discrimination.