Wednesday was a huge victory for students across New York State. The state senate, after years of lagging behind their assembly counterparts, finally passed the Dignity for All Students Act by a vote of 58-3. The Dignity Bill provides teachers with training and tools to address bullying and harassment in schools, and creates clear guidelines for schools to create safe, respectful learning environments for all students. The bill focuses on preventative education and training, instead of relying solely on punitive approaches. Dignity provides protections based on a number of categories, including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, disability and religion and is the first-ever state law that includes protections based on gender identity and expression,
Dignity is a huge step forward toward the day when all students feel safe and welcome at schools. Students like Xandria Speller, an Albany-based recent high school graduate who lobbied on the Dignity bill last week, are proof of the need for the Dignity Bill. Xandria was forced to go to an alternative high school after being severely bullied in middle school — because of her race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. She is one of hundreds of New York students who’ve told their stories and highlighted the real need for this bill.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has been working on getting the Dignity for All Students Act passed for years, and we call on Gov. David Paterson to quickly sign it into law. We likewise urge the legislature to pass a complimentary bill (PDF) introduced by the governor this week that requires schools to follow the state’s human rights law against discrimination and establishes a school violence hotline for students and parents.
Come celebrate the Dignity victory this weekend by marching with the ACLU and NYCLU at the NYC Pride Parade! It is the biggest pride celebration in the country and will not disappoint. Please sign up here. Leading the way will be ACLU client and a kick-ass young woman, Constance McMillen as one of the parade’s grand marshals. We’re meeting at 11 a.m. at 40th Street between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue. See you there!