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Letter: Anti-Discrimination Law Would Cut School Bullying, Suicides (Daily Gazette)

To to Editor:

The rash of student suicides at Schenectady High School demonstrates the urgent need for the Dignity for All Students Act [DASA], legislation that would empower educators in Schenectady and throughout the state to provide all students a safe, comfortable learning environment.

DASA, which the Assembly passed April 8, would amend state education law to protect public school students from harassment and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, religious practice, weight, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. The bill’s protections are not limited to these categories, as it aims to protect students from any harassment that substantially interferes with their education.

The bill would require teachers and staff to be trained to properly address instances of harassment and discrimination. It would require monitoring and reporting of such incidents.

School is a nightmare for students facing daily harassment. Victims of persistent harassment lose focus on class work, skip school, engage in drinking, drugs and other high-risk behaviors, and, most tragically, often contemplate suicide.

Gov. Paterson has endorsed DASA. The state Senate must quickly pass this important legislation.

The tragic suicides that rocked Schenectady High School demonstrate the terrible toll persistent bullying exacts on children. We can’t wait another day.

Melanie Trimble
Director, Capital Region Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union

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