Every school should provide the DASA Incident Reporting Form, or the DASA Form customized, on the school district and school websites. The form should be easily accessible to parents, students and school staff.
Every student should be informed of the process and procedures for investigations and should be taught the process for reporting an incident. Specifically, when an incident occurs, a student should report it to the Dignity Act Coordinator, an administrator, or staff member that he or she trusts. From there, an investigation will involve interviews with the target of the incident, the student accused, any witnesses, and the parents of each student interviewed. Any objective evidence, will be obtained. A written investigation report will be prepared with the Incident Reporting Form and any supplemental documents. Law enforcement will be contacted when the incident is believed to constitute criminal conduct.
Effective investigations must maintain a circle of confidentiality that prevents re-victimization. Interviewees should be informed that the information they provide will be kept confidential to the extent permitted under law. Staff should not discuss incidents outside the context of the actual investigation. Strategies should be employed during the investigation to minimize gossip and rumors.
For more information on DASA see our blog here or give us a call at 518.388.0075. For a summary of how our school's are falling short of DASA's requirements, see our summary of the August 31st memo from the Attorney General and Commissioner of Education at: https://veronicareed2.tumblr.com/post/151628616909/are-new-york-schools-meeting-their-obligations
The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) created a new Article 2 under the New York State Education Law. DASA went into effect in 2012, with supplemental cyber-bullying provisions in effect in 2013. DASA prohibits bullying, harassment, and discrimination of students in school on the basis of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including identity and expression), sex or other. DASA protects all students whenever students experience threats, intimidating behavior or abuse on school property that interferes with safety, learning experience, self-esteem, or peace of mind.
In addition to bullying, DASA protects students against harassment and discrimination. Harassment is defined as the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or verbal threats, intimidation, or abuse that has or would have the effect of reasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety.
Discrimination is the act of denying rights, benefits, justice, equitable treatment or access to facilities available to all others, to an individual or group of people because of the group, class or category to which that person belongs.
DASA and its implementing regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Education require districts to:
The policy on prohibiting incidents of harassment, bullying or discrimination must enable oral and written reports by students and parents. It must require school employees to notify an administrator or designee within one school day of witnessing or receiving a report of an incident and file a written report within two school days. The policy requires that upon receipt of the report, the administrator or designee must lead a thorough investigation. If an incident is verified, then the policy requires the school to take prompt action(s) reasonably calculated to end the harassment, bullying and discrimination, to eliminate any hostile environment, prevent a reoccurrence of the behavior, and ensure the safety of the student(s). The policy must prohibit retaliation against any individual who reports or assists in an investigation.
There is no private right of action under DASA if a child is injured as a result of bullying, but there may be a cause of action for negligent supervision. You can read more about school injuries here.
It is important as a parent, that you report each incident of threats, harassment and/or bullying, especially threats specifically targeted to their child and verbal threats to cause physical harm or engage in physical acts.. This puts the school on notice and creates an obligation by the school to intervene or address the incidents.
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Under the law, a school is required to respond to bullying complaints and take actions, but not required to end bullying or respond in a way that a parent or student feels is adequate. In order to support a civil rights claim (as opposed to a negligence claim), the school's response to bullying needs to be extremely egregious and outrageous. For example, in Smith v. Guilford Bd. of Educ. the Second Circuit determined that a school's failure to respond to harassment and bullying was "highly unfortunate" but not sufficiently egregious to support a cause of action. 226 F. App'x 58, 62 (2007).
New York State affords all students in public school an environment free from bullying, harassment, and discrimination by students or school employees on school property or at a school function. Bullying, harassment and discrimination poses serious threats to students and compromises a student’s ability to learn and a school’s ability to educate its students. Education Law §10.
Bullying is an unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. If an occur before and after school hours and in a variety of locations including the playground, school bus, or the Internet. Cyberbullying is distinguished as occurring when harassment or bullying happens through any form of electronic communication. Educ. Law §11.
If you believe your child is the victim of bullying it is important to document all incidents, no matter how small, including the date and time of the incident, the people or children involved, any witnesses, and a detailed description of what happened. We are available to answer your questions through our Contact page or by phone at 518.388.0075.