June 23, 2010 – New York State is on its way to having its first statewide protections based on gender identity and expression! Last night, the New York State Senate passed the Dignity for All Students Act by a whopping 58-3. The Dignity for All Students Act was passed earlier this year by the Assembly and now heads to Governor Paterson’s desk. He’s been a tremendous friend of the LGBT community, and we urge him to once again show his support by quickly signing this bill into law.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in New York face tremendous amounts of bullying and harassment. One recent survey conducted by GLSEN found that 79% had been verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 62% had been verbally harassed because of how they expressed their gender.
The Dignity for All Students Act would allow teachers, parents, students, and school administrators to address bullying and bias-related behavior of all kinds that interfere with student safety and learning. The Act will foster the development of rules to prevent and respond to discriminatory harassment and hate violence. It will establish teacher, staff and administrative training guidelines. Discrimination awareness will be incorporated into civility and character education curricula. And incidents of bias harassment will have to be reported to the State Education Department.
In addition to protecting students on the basis of gender identity and expression, the Dignity for All Students Act protects students on the basis of sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, weight and disability.
We’re grateful to the Empire State Pride Agenda for its leadership on this issue, and to organizations like NYAGRA, GLSEN and the other members of the DASA Coalition who have worked to pass this legislation. Much of the credit goes to the many individuals who called, wrote to, and met with legislators to tell them why it was essential that New York join the growing list of states that protect students from the bullying and harassment that can destroy a student’s chances of success. And we applaud the lead sponsors of this legislation, Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and Senator Tom Duane for their determination in getting this bill passed.
With the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Pride March here in New York just around the corner, the New York State Senate has reminded us that when we work together and raise our voices in unison, we can make the kinds of change that positively impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. That’s truly something that should make us all proud.