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Letter: Dignity for All Students Act Must Become Law (Albany Times-Union)

To the editor:

The ethnic slur hurled at a 15-year-old high school student of Iraqi descent at Shenendehowa High School (“Shen’s handling of anti-Arab slur upsets family,” May 15), and the feeble response by school officials to the hateful taunt, demonstrate the crucial need to enact the Dignity for All Students Act.

The proposed act would amend the New York Education Law to prohibit harassment and discrimination against students in public schools based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.

The bill, which has passed the Assembly multiple times only to be stalled in the Senate, 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 often contemplate suicide. With so much at stake, it is unacceptable for educators to respond to harassment the way Shenendehowa officials did in this case — by disciplining the victim and then saying there is nothing more they can do.

The Dignity for All Students Act would ensure that educators are prepared to provide all students a safe, comfortable learning environment. It is vital legislation that the state Senate should pass immediately.

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

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