New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (formerly known as DASA but now known as The Dignity ACT or DACT) seeks to provide students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, the Internet, a school bus and/or at a school function.
The Dignity Act states that NO student shall be subjected to harassment or discrimination by employees or students on school property or at a school function based on their actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
This law originally earned the nickname of “DASA” but the state Education Department changed the nickname to DACT because it now includes the topic of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is defined as using the Internet, cell phones or other electronic devices to send or post text or images intended to intimidate, hurt or embarrass another person. Much of cyberbullying is initiated outside of school by using programs such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or texting.
The Dignity Act arises out of legislative concern about bullying and safety in schools. While the act does not use the word “bullying,” that is its primary focus. This act is designed to prevent and prohibit discriminating and harassing conduct on school property and at school functions.
Any person having reasonable cause to believe that a student has been subjected to discrimination or harassment must act reasonably and in good faith by reporting the incident. Incident reporting forms are available here.
Some common terminology used in The Dignity Act:
What is bullying?
Bullying is a conscious and deliberate hostile activity intended to harm, induce fear through the threat of further aggression and create terror. Bullying includes three elements:
- Imbalance of power – Children who bully use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information or popularity, to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Intent to harm – The person bullying has a goal of causing harm.
- Repetition – Bullying behaviors generally happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
What is harassment?
The Dignity for All Students Act defines harassment as 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, benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being; or conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety.
The harassing behavior may be based on any characteristic, including but not limited to a person’s actual or perceived:
- National Origin
- Religious Practice
- Sexual Orientation
- Ethnic Group
- Gender (including gender identity and expression)
What is hazing?
Hazing is an induction, initiation or membership process involving harassment which produces public humiliation, physical or emotional discomfort, bodily injury or public ridicule or creates a situation where public humiliation, physical or emotional discomfort, bodily injury or public ridicule is likely to occur.
What is discrimination?
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.
That includes, but is not limited to, a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sex, sexual orientation, and gender (including gender identity and expression).