School can be challenging for young people in many different ways, and educators need constant updates and professional development to address diverse student needs. For some situations, it’s as simple as helping students wrap their heads around a challenging subject, while for others, social anxieties require an empathetic and nuanced approach.
Harassment, however, should never be an obstacle to a child’s success, and it’s critical that teachers and school staff be aware of the signs and symptoms. Harassment and bullying instill educational institutions with fear and tears and put students in a hole before they ever set foot in a classroom. The problem is becoming even more complicated to identify and manage since platforms like social media have made cyberbullying a potentially relentless and nearly invisible threat.
Fortunately, New York State is working to change all that. The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) gives educational professionals the knowledge and tools to combat bullying in schools and provide a positive and safe environment where students can get the most out of their education.
What is the Dignity for All Students Act?
In 2011, bullying and harassment were on the rise in New York schools, and there was an increasing sense amongst teachers, administration, and parents that a major policy shift was needed. The Dignity for All Students Act went into effect on July 1, 2012, with the goal of eliminating discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, on buses, and at school functions.
DASA represented a broader effort in New York State education law to expand concepts of respect and tolerance through an awareness of other races, religions, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. By empowering teachers and school administrators to support the students they work with, DASA’s policies and guidelines help to mitigate instances of bullying and harassment in schools.
Types of Harassment
DASA uses broad language because bullying and harassment take a wide variety of forms. There are many reasons a student can become a target, and there is also a wide variety of forms harassment can take. Teachers and administrators need to keep themselves informed about all the mechanisms of bullying in order to fight it effectively.
Physical bullying involves physical contact between students and can be experienced in both the short term or long term. Hitting, kicking, tripping, pushing, or damaging another person’s property are all forms of physical bullying, and result in both emotional and physical harm.
Take a ride on a school bus or sit in the elementary cafeteria for any period of time, and you’ll likely hear some insults thrown around. Verbal bullying is commonplace among young people, but in its worst forms, it targets a student’s race, identity, and self-worth.
Cyberbullying is the intentional and repeated harm inflicted using digital technologies such as websites, social media, and text messaging. Cyberbullying can happen in private or public forums with few limitations on frequency and time of day.
Addressing mechanisms through which online harassment occurs is not always easy. Raising awareness can have a major impact on the frequency and prevalence of cyberbullying, but it’s important for educators to keep their ears and eyes open for unexpected changes in students’ behaviors and emotional states that may indicate a problem below the surface.
Developing an environment in schools where students trust teachers and feel safe and supported by the administration is key to combating cyberbullying in schools. It’s a complicated subject and one that requires ongoing education and training for staff.
The Impact on School Policy and Students
The Dignity for All Students Act represents a major step forward for student safety and equality of opportunity. DASA’s framework requires schools to take a closer look at harassment and bullying and the oversights that allow them to occur. Correcting obvious problems and filling policy holes alone has done a great deal to improve conditions.
Where harassment and bullying still exist, the development of age-appropriate responses to discrimination and harassment was essential. Focusing on language and discipline to address root causes and prevention was a key driver in policy formation touching on elements like the school code of conduct.
Through these ongoing initiatives, DASA continues to inform developments in bullying and harassment policy. Kids spend a tremendous amount of their formative life in schools, and with a reduced threat of harassment and bullying, that time can be a more valuable and supportive experience.
Safety and Security Through the Dignity for All Students Act
The Dignity for All Students Act represents a meaningful step forward in the fight to eradicate bullying and harassment in our educational systems, and it’s vital that teachers, administration, and other school staff keep themselves current and informed. Creating a safe and secure environment for kids in school requires training and education to know what to look for and how to handle the situation when intervention is needed.
New York: DASA Dignity for All Students Act Training offered by #1 Premiere Continuing Education can provide you with the training you need to create a safe and effective learning environment for the students you work with. This workshop is NYSED-approved, online, and we report completion to TEACH to make certification quick and easy.