November 16, 2014 by Nayeli Selkis
It’s no mystery that bullying has been a part of the school environment for a long time. From the stereotypical situation of a jock beating up a nerd for his lunch money to more complicated scenarios such as cyber bullying, it is sadly something that numerous kids face every day when they come to school. Bullying isn’t what it used to be; it has changed with society as we progress down different avenues. Although it is unlikely that bullying will ever cease to exist, almost all the states have created laws or policies to help protect their students. It may seem inconsequential, but these laws are a necessary step in the attempt to improve and protect the lives of students across the country.
In New York State there is a law called the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). It was first implemented on July 1, 2012 and has undergone revisions that were added on July 1, 2013. DASA’s main purpose is to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students without various types of bullying. Main aspects of DASA include a change in curriculum, a Dignity Act Coordinator, employee training, and ways to handle reports of harassment. The curriculum is supposed to now include teachings that promote a school environment without harassment and discrimination as well as using electronic communication conscientiously.
The Dignity Act Coordinator is at least one staff member who is trained and appointed to deal with situations that regard things such as race, religion, gender and others. For the high school, the DASA coordinator is Assistant Principal Susan DeRocker. Staff members receive training to better educate themselves on how to recognize a situation where a child is being bullied and then how to handle it. Any cyberbullying done on or off school grounds that may in any way be affecting another child’s ability to learn can be held responsible under DASA. In the 2013 revisions of DASA, there are now clear guidelines that can be followed when a child reports any kind of bullying.
All of these rules and changes seem like they would be a great thing for school districts in New York State. The question is though, is the Dignity for All Students Act really able to make a difference in the lives of students who are being bullied?
When asked this question, Mrs. Totino, a 10th grade English teacher at the high school and a co-chair for the DASA committee, said, “I think so, I think it raises awareness which is the first step… I think that by creating a curriculum where we’re teaching thing like empathy will make a difference.”
Our society has made tremendous progress to raise awareness on bullying and work to try and stop it, but we’re not there yet. Laws like DASA, great as they are, aren’t going to end bullying.
Mrs. Totino felt that to really eliminate bullying “would take a national shift in our consciousness with the way we treat each other.”
Bullying may never go away, and there’s not much we can do about that. It’s been part of our society ever since we could talk and communicate. What we can do though is create bills and laws like DASA that may just cushion the blow. The problem might not go away completely, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to fix it. Kids deserve a school where they feel safe, not one where they’re scared to go to lunch.