Addressing Bullying and Harassment in New York State Schools

The state of New York has taken great measures over the past few years to protect our students from being bullied and harassed. New York State legislature enacted the Dignity For All Students Act (DASA) in 2012 prohibiting the harassment and discrimination of students by students and by school personnel.  This was in response to the large number of harassed and stigmatized students skipping school and engaging in high-risk behaviors. The act is designed to create more nurturing and safe environments in all New York public schools by:

  1. Protecting all public and secondary school students.
  2. Each school’s Code of Conduct must be amended to reflect the prohibition of discrimination and harassment of students by students or staff in age-appropriate language.
  3. Districts must appoint at least one staff member in each school to handle all bullying incidents on school property (including athletic fields, playgrounds, and parking lots), in school buildings, on a school bus/vehicle, as well as at school-sponsored events or activities).
  4. All New York State administrators and teaching staff must become DASA certified.
  5. Administrators must report incidents of bullying or bias-based harassment to the NYS Department of Education.

DASA training covers such topics as understanding diversity and examining personal biases, understanding school climate and culture, developing sensitivity to the experience of specific populations, and prevention and intervention strategies. In order to effectively respond to such incidences, it is very important to understand the difference between bullying and harassment. It was recently reported to staff members at my school that on referrals or behavior incident reports, the behaviors are often identified incorrectly, making it more difficult for administrators to respond to and correctly report incidents. In light of this matter, the school counselor disseminated a document to all staff members to remind them of the differences between teasing (friendly and hurtful), peer conflicts, and bullying.

Another effective system we have in place at our school is PBIS or Positive Behavior Intervention System. This is a key component in the student management system that encourages positive behaviors through recognition and rewards. Data on behaviors are shared monthly to staff members and quarterly to students at Kindness assemblies. These events are also used to recognize students that have expressed kindness or compassion to another and are nominated by a teacher.

I look forward to hearing how various countries abroad respond to these issues!

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6 responses to “Addressing Bullying and Harassment in New York State Schools

  1. To add to Deanna’s post. In New York State a 6 hour DASA course must be completed and a course completion certificate must be obtained to become a certified Teacher, Administrator, School Psychologist, Speech Therapist, Library Media Specialist, Paraprofessional/Teaching Assistant, etc. The certificate is then uploaded into the New York State TEACH system (run by the State Education of New York) to show the requirement for certification has been met.

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  2. I honestly can say this is the first time I have heard of the term mobbing. I looked it up and the definition of mobbing means bullying of an individual by a group in any context, such as a family, friends, peers, school, workplace, neighborhood, community, or online. How is mobbing different from harassment?

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  3. Most of the staff at my school, including myself have attended the DASA training. This training made me much more aware of the instances of harassment and bullying that take place in my school on a daily basis. This truth was very concerning to me because I have always considered myself a compassionate educator. I do not feel that DASA gave me a new lenses to observe with so that I can better recognizing these wrongs but the training helped clean the lenses that I have that have been soiled by the constant negative behaviors that go unaddressed in my school. I think many have become desensitized to the victimizing behavior that pervades our school culture. Just walking down the hall on any given day I will hear a dozen students yelling terms such as fagot, lick, lame, thot, bitch, Suck my….. Then the physical posturing of students while they corner and berate each other, pull hair, shove, play fight, take each others property and refuse to give it back…. All this I will observe in a three minute walk to the copy room.
    With a new awareness of this behavior it is important that we design a process that will create a change that address all students rights. I do believe that PBIS can be used to initiate behavioral change and increase individual compliance to a institutions rules, but how can we begin a systemic change of a culture so that a healthy community is created from within not imposed from without?

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  4. Pingback: Looking into the definition of bullying | Organizational and Institutional Change·

  5. Pingback: Organizational and Institutional Change·

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