Dignity for All Students Act

It is the policy of the State of New York, as set for in the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) as well as federal civil rights statutes, including Titles IV, VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Section 504 or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and all subsequent amendments, to afford all students in public schools an environment free from harassment, bullying, (including cyber bullying) and discrimination as well as to foster civility in public schools.  The Dignity Act focuses on the prevention of discriminatory behaviors, including harassment/bullying, through the promotion of educational measures meant to positively impact school culture and climate.

In order to foster an environment which promotes and supports students’ ability to learn and meet high academic standards in the Florida Union Free School District, the Board of Education is dedicated to ensuring the District promptly addresses any conduct which is inconsistent with the District’s educational mission or which detracts from a healthy and positive school climate, including discriminatory or harassing behaviors as defined by the Dignity for All Students Act or related federal civil rights statutes set forth above.  The Board of Education is committed to providing all its students with an environment free from discrimination and harassment and shall take steps to prevent harassment and discriminatory behavior through educational measures designed to promote tolerance, respect for others and to promote awareness and sensitivity to discrimination or harassment to encourage civility and a climate of mutual respect, equality and dignity for all students on school grounds and at all school sponsored activities, programs or events.  Harassment against any student by any student or employee that creates a hostile environment by conduct will not be tolerated.

By combining prevention with education, the District’s goal is to decrease incidents of discrimination and harassment while simultaneously increasing awareness among students and staff to be sensitive and alert to the warnings signs of bullying and harassment as well as their obligation to report or act when such acts occur.  Essential components of this effort shall include:

  • Instruction and strategies that identify early warning signs and precursor behaviors which, if left unaddressed, may lead to discrimination, harassment or bullying.
  • Gathering information related to harassment, discrimination or bullying from students, parents, school staff and the community.
  • Establishing school wide and classroom rules about bullying.
  • Providing instruction to students in civility, citizenship and character education that emphasizes tolerance and respect for others and promotes a climate of mutual respect and dignity for all students.
  • Providing professional development and school wide training to staff to be able to identify, respond sensitively and consistently to incidents of harassment and bullying as well as to promoting tolerance and respect for all.
  • Providing adequate adult supervision, particularly in less structured areas, such as hallways, cafeteria and playgrounds, as applicable.
  • Notification to Parents as to District and school-wide efforts to become involved in preventing and addressing prohibited conduct and promoting a positive and healthy school environment.

Incident Reporting and Investigation

Students who have been harassed/bullied, parents whose children have been bullied or other students or staff who observe bullying behavior are encouraged and expected to make a verbal and/or written complaint to any school personnel in accordance with the training and guidelines provided. Confidential reporting forms can be found on the district website under DASA.

At all times, complaints will be documented, tracked and handled in accordance with the regulations and procedures. Where the nature of the bullying or harassment also warrants investigation under another District Policy that addresses wrongful discriminatory practices (e.g. Title VI CRA, Title IX ESEA, Section 504 RA/Title II ADA, Disability Discrimination), there shall be coordinated investigation.

An equitable and thorough investigation will be carried out by the Building Principal or the Building DASA Coordinator. If either of the parties disagrees with the results of the investigation, they can appeal the findings to the Superintendent of Schools. In the event that the complaint involves the Superintendent of Schools, the appeal of the complaint shall be filed with the Board of Education for its review and decision. Verified bullying incidents that meet the criteria established by the State will be included in the statewide reporting system when applicable in accordance with law and regulation.

To report a suspected violation, print and fill out this  DASA Confidential Investigative Report and return it to the main office of either building, to the Seward Guidance office, or by mail/email.

Definitions

The Board of Education recognizes the need to clearly define expectations for acceptable conduct on school property by staff and students and to identify the possible consequences of unacceptable conduct, to ensure that discipline is administered promptly and fairly when necessary. To this end, the Board adopts this code of conduct. Unless otherwise indicated, the code of conduct applies to all students, school personnel, parents and other visitors when on school property or at school functions.

For the purposes of this Code, the following definitions apply:

Harassment/Bullying– the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or by threats, intimidation or abuse, including cyberbullying as defined in Education Law §11[8]. that:

a.     Has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being; or

b.     Reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety.

c.     Reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause physical injury or emotional harm to a student; or

d.     Occurs off school property and creates or would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment, where it is foreseeable that the conduct, threats, intimidation or abuse might reach school property.

For purposes of this definition, the term “threats, intimidation or abuse” shall include verbal and non-verbal actions.  (Education Law §11[7])

Acts of harassment and bullying that are prohibited include those acts based on a persons’ actual or perceived membership in the following groups, including but not limited to:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Weight
  • National Origin
  • Ethnic Group
  • Religion
  • Religious Practice
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender (which includes a person’s actual or perceived sex, as well as gender identity and expression.)

Cyberbullying – harassment/bullying, as defined above through any form of electronic communication. Cyberbullying may include, among other things, the use both on and off school property, of electronic technology including, but not limited to:  email, instant messaging, blogs, chat rooms, pagers, cell phones, gaming systems and social media websites, to deliberately harass or threaten others.

Discrimination – Discrimination is the act against any student, by employee(s) or by student(s) on school property, or at a school function, including but not limited to discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.

Disability – (a) a physical, mental or medical impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions which prevents the exercised of a normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques or (b) a record of such an impairment or (c) a condition regarded by others as such an impairment, provided, however, that in all provisions of this article dealing with employment, the term must be limited to disabilities with, upon the provision of reasonable accommodations, do not prevent the complainant from performing in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job or occupation sought or held (Education Law §11[4] and Executive Law §292[21]).

Disruptive Student – an elementary or secondary student under the age of 21 who is substantially disruptive of the educational process and other’s right to learn, or substantially interferes with the teacher’s authority over the classroom

Emotional Harm – that takes place in the context of “harassment or bullying”, means harm to a student’s emotional well-being through creation of a hostile school environment that is so severe or pervasive as to unreasonably and substantially interfere with a student’s education.

Employee – means any person receiving compensation from a school district or employee of a contracted service provider or worker placed within the school under a public assistance employment program, pursuant to tile nine-B of article five of the Social Services Law , and consistent with the provisions of such title for the provision of services to such district, its students or employees, directly or through contract,  whereby such services performed by such person involve direct student contact (Education Law §11[4] and 1125[3]).

Gender – actual or perceived sex and includes a person’s gender identity or expression (Education Law §116[6]).

Parent – the parent, guardian or person in parental relation to a student.

Removal – the act of a teacher in discontinuing the presence of the student in his/her classroom.

School Bus – every motor vehicle owned by a public or governmental agency or private school and operated for the transportation of pupils, children of pupils, teachers and other persons acting in supervisory capacity to or from school or school activities, or, privately owned and operated for compensation for the transportation of pupils, children of pupils, teachers, and other persons acting in a supervisory capacity to or from school or school activities. (Education Law §11[1] and Vehicle and Traffic Law §142).

School Function – any school sponsored extra-curricular, co-curricular or other event or activity. (Education Law §11[2] .

School Property – in or within any building, structure, athletic playing field, playground, parking lot or land contained within the real property boundary line of a public elementary or secondary school, or in or on a school bus (Education Law §11[1] AND Vehicle and Traffic Law §142).

Sexual Orientation – actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality (Education Law §11[5]).

Suspension – the act of a Building Principal (or acting building principal), Superintendent of Schools, District Superintendent or Board of Education in discontinuing the presence of a student from his/her regular classes.

Violent Student – a student under the age of 21 who:

  • commits an act of violence upon a school employee, or attempts to do so;
  • commits, while on school property or at a school function, an act of violence upon another student or any other person lawfully on school property or at the school function, or attempts to do so;
  • possesses, while on school property or at a school function, a weapon;
  • displays, while on school property or at a sponsored school function, what appears to be a weapon;
  • threatens, while on school property or at a school function, to use a weapon;
  • knowingly and intentionally damages or destroys the personal property of any school employee or any person lawfully on school property or at a school function;
  • knowingly and intentionally damages or destroys school district property.

Weapon – a firearm as defined in the Gun-Free Schools Act (18 USC ‘921) [any firearm, including a starter gun, which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of such firearm; any firearm muffler or silencer; or any destructive device], as well as any other gun, BB gun, pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, machine gun, disguised gun, dagger, dirk, razor, stiletto, switchblade knife, gravity knife, brass knuckles, sling shot, metal knuckle knife, box cutter, cane sword, electronic dart gun, Kung Fu star, electronic stun gun, pepper spray or other noxious spray, explosive or incendiary bomb, or other device, instrument, material or substance that can cause physical injury or death when used to cause physical injury or death. A knife of any blade length qualifies for this definition.

The New York State Dignity Act also applies to harassment and discrimination of transgender students.

Transgender and Gender nonconforming students – Individuals who are transgender are protected under federal law (Title IX). The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice work together to protect transgender and gender nonconforming individuals from harassment and discrimination based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes and sexual harassment. They also investigate and attempt to resolve complaints.

Privacy – All students have a right to privacy, including keeping a student’s transgender status private.  Information about a student’s transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth is confidential information.  Disclosing this information to others may violate federal law, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. (“FERPA”).