New York Lawmakers Agree: Bullying is Bad, Bill Sent to Governor
After nearly 10 years of debating the subject, New York lawmakers agree that bullying is a bad thing.
They sent the anti-bullying Dignity for All Students Act to Gov. David A. Paterson for his signature on June 22, which basically declares New York's public schools bully-free zones and creates educational programs designed to prevent bullying.
Will the bullies themselves honor the state's commitment to the rights of their victims? Many would say bullies are a notoriously sneaky bunch with little regard for official proclamations of tolerance.
Yet, Pamela L. Riley, executive director of the National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere, tells The New York Times the bill's provision for educating teachers and administrators should help.
"The No. 1 thing I hear from parents when they're calling about a student being abused is that the teachers didn't see it, or they don't know what to do once they identify it," says Riley, a former high school principal. "So it's important to get the education along with the reporting."
Specifically, the bill:
- Declares public schools bully-free environments
- Informs students and parents of policies against bullying and resources to combat it
- Trains teachers, administrators and staff to identify and stop bullying
- Creates guidelines for nondiscriminatory instruction and counseling
- Makes tolerance and sensitivity toward others part of the regular curriculum
- Provides a staff member trained in human-relations counseling to help victims
- Requires reports on bullying incidents be filed with the State Education Department
All this is good news for Assemblyman Daniel J. O'Donnell, who spearheaded the bill for the last five years. O'Donnell, who is openly gay, tells The Times he was tormented because of his weight as a child and that he hopes the bill will help children with similar differences.
O'Donnell says gay teenagers are more open about their sexuality today than in the past, making them targets for bullies.
"When I was growing up, no one at 17 was gay," he tells The Times.
He tells the paper the bill took a long time to pass because it had to fight its way past traditional notions that bullying is just a natural part of growing up.
"That leads to suicide and it leads to death," O'Donnell tells The Times. "There was a case in California where a transgender kid was murdered. So clearly, bullying escalates. What we're trying to do is nip bullying in the bud."
O'Donnell tells The Times the governor supports the bill. A spokesman for the governor's office tells the newspaper Paterson will review it.
If Paterson signs the bill, New York will be the 43rd state in the nation to pass anti-bullying legislation. Bullying has only lately becoming a major concern for state legislatures. Most of the other state bills have passed their laws in the past five years.
"No child should be terrified to go to school simply because of who they are," Thomas K. Duane, the New York bill's Senate sponsor, tells The Times. "There is no place for bullying and discrimination in New York's classrooms."
Related: How to Tell if Your Child is a Bully
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.