Elementary Code of Conduct – The Dignity for All Students Act
Chapter 482 of the Laws of 2010 added a new article 2 to the Education Law that prohibits discrimination against, and harassment of, students based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex by school employees or other students on the school property or at a school function.
Dignity Act statutory definitions:
- School Property means 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).
- School Bus means 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 a 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 and Vehicle and Traffic Law §142).
- School Function means a school sponsored extracurricular event or activity (Education §11).
- Disability means (a) a physical, mental or medical impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions which prevents the exercise 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 which, 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 and Executive Law §292).
- 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 title 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 and 1125).
- Sexual Orientation means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality (Education Law §11).
- Gender means actual or perceived sex and includes a person‛s gender identity or expression (Education Law §11).
- Harassment means the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or by verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that 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 conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety; such conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse includes but is not limited to conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse based on a person‛s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex(Education Law §11).
As discussed above, the Dignity Act prohibits discrimination and harassment of students on school property, including at school functions, by any student and/or employee. However, harassment may include, among other things, the use, both on and off school property, of information 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. This type of harassment is generally referred to as cyber-bullying.
The Dignity Act emphasizes the importance of tolerance and respect for others by students and staff alike. Therefore, all members of the school community, including essential partners such as superintendents, school board members, parents, students, teachers, guidance counselors, principals/administrators, support staff and other school personnel have particularly important roles to play in its implementation. See The Role of School Community Members.