One of the items in the news these past few weeks is the new anti-bullying law that finally passed in New York. It was first presented in 2002, passed the Assembly nine times before finally being passed in the state Senate as well, and on September 8 was signed by New York Governor David Patterson. The Dignity for All Students Act protects students on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, religious practice, weight and disability. The sticking point for some state senators was the rest of the language that protected gay and transgender students. Incidents of harassment are required to be reported to the State Education Department.
But what does this really mean? What it comes down to in New York State is that bullying of just about any nature is not tolerated. I say almost any nature because someone could supposedly be bullied based on the fact that they are not good at chemistry or are not a good basketball player since those do not fall under the law. But by and large, schools are now legally required to intervene and stop students being bullied. This should help remove a big reason why some students, particularly LGBT students, drop out or don’t achieve the academic status they otherwise would have gained if they were simply left alone. And academic achievement in a setting free from fear is really what schools should be about.