By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A long-awaited state anti-bullying law goes into effect on Sunday.
While the city’s Department of Education is working on the rollout, according to spokesperson Marge Feinberg, advocates who have been nursing the law through an often-reluctant state legislature for ten years say they don’t want to take any chances — they’re putting together a roundtable on July 24 to “make sure the law is implemented on time.”
The Dignity for All Students Act prohibits harassment of students in schools and at school events, and also outlaws cyberbullying. Schools are required to have an implementation plan in place — covering teacher training, reporting and a student curriculum — by July 1.
Bullying often affects children who are perceived to be gay or different in other ways: overweight or learning disabled, for example. In a highly publicized incident on June 5, a student attending Roy H. Mann Junior High in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, was left blind in one eye after an assault by gay-bashing bullies. The family is suing the city for $16 million.
“We already put in place a ‘Respect For All’ liaison who will be the Dignity Coordinator in schools. These liaisons attend a two-day training,” Feinberg told the Brooklyn Eagle. She said that schools also develop a “Respect For All” plan, and that the city has provided schools with training materials to help staff understand the requirements.
“In addition, we are preparing a guidance document to assist schools, and this information will be included in that document.”
Feinberg said all schools must implement “regularly scheduled lessons that promote understanding of and respect for diversity.” Lessons must include “issues related to discrimination or harassment based on identity characteristics.”
“We’re at that moment when we need to match words with actual changes in our classrooms and hallways — and there isn’t much time left to get this right,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “There is a big difference between having a goal and having a teacher ready to intervene when he or she spots bullying.”
Partnering with de Blasio are a number of bill supporters including state Sen. Tom Duane, the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Advocates for Children, Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Resources for Children with Special Needs and Lambda Independent Democrats.
De Blasio said in a statement that the roundtable would cover the challenges posed by bullying, barriers to implementing the new law, and best practices from other school systems. To participate in the roundtable, contact Sadye Vassil at 212-669-7579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A spokesperson said that de Blasio would present the Department of Education with a white paper with recommendations following the event.