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Civic and Community Orgs Call on NYC DOE to Do More to Protect Youth from Harassment and Bullying

A group of five civic and community advocacy organizations today released a white paper and report card showing that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) is falling short on its duty to protect public school students from bias-based harassment and bullying.

A group of five civic and community advocacy organizations today released a white paper and report card showing that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) is falling short on its duty to protect public school students from bias-based harassment and bullying.

Dignity Now: The Campaign to Stop Bullying and Bias-Harassment in New York City Schools, a white paper by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the New York City Bar Association’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Committee, uses legal analysis and students’ first-hand accounts to conclude that though Mayor Bloomberg and the DOE have made strides toward ending the problem of bullying and biased-based harassment in the schools, more effort is necessary.

Bias-based Harassment in New York City Public Schools: A Report Card on the Department of Education’s Implementation of Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, produced by the Sikh Coalition, the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), assesses the DOE’s progress enforcing Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, which was issued last September to address student-to-student bullying and bias-based harassment. Based on a survey of more than 1,100 students and educators in the city’s public schools, the report card demonstrates that the regulation is not being fully implemented.

“We are concerned that the Chancellor’s Regulation is a promise that is not being fulfilled, a piece of paper that is having little impact on city schools,” said Sonny Singh, a community organizer for the Sikh Coalition. “While the regulation was a strong step in the right direction, it is not yet being fully implemented and not yet making a difference for the average Sikh, immigrant or gay student.”

“Harassment and bullying in the schools is a huge problem and the Chancellor’s Regulation was a good step. But it outlines an incomplete, voluntary training and monitoring system that is not adequate to prevent harassment,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “Unless the regulation is strengthened and fully enforced, it will leave too many students at the mercy of bullies.”

In June 2004, the City Council recognized the urgent need to protect students by passing the Dignity in All Schools Act (DASA), legislation that prohibits harassment and discrimination in the schools; requires regular anti-harassment training for staff and teachers; and requires regular reporting and tracking of incidents bullying and harassment. Mayor Bloomberg and the DOE, however, refused to enforce DASA.

Four years later, following a pair of high-profile attacks against Sikh students in the city schools, the DOE issued Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, a step toward addressing bias-based harassment, intimidation and bullying. The regulation, however, falls short of fully protecting youth.

“The findings of this white paper and the accompanying report card make clear that the Department of Education needs to do more to protect New York City’s youth,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, chair of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Rights Committee at the New York City Bar. “A voluntary training and monitoring system does not stop or prevent harassment. More must be done.”

The DOE’s School Environment Survey Report for 2006-07 reflects widespread harassment and bullying in the city’s schools. According to the survey, 76 percent of sixth to 12th grade students reported seeing students “threaten or bully other students at school.” Nearly half the students surveyed said bullying happened “some of the time,” and an additional 29 percent say it happens most or all of the time.

“Sikhs kids have a really tough time at my school,” said Gurnam Singh, 13, a seventh grader at M.S. 72 in Queens. “Other students have threatened to cut my hair and have tried to pull my turban off. Two weeks ago another student cut me with a hair clip and threatened to ‘smack my turban off.’ I told a teacher about it but nothing was done.”

Among the report card’s key findings:

  • 76 percent of students do not know they can report bias-based harassment anonymously by emailing
  • 80 percent of students have not attended a training or presentation to discourage harassment.
  • 16 percent of students who reported experiencing bias-based harassment said the harasser was a teacher, staff member, or security agent.

“The DOE must do more to educate students and parents about Chancellor’s Regulation A-832,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF. “Without greater awareness, adequate funding, and public reporting, this regulation will not have its intended effects of reducing racial harassment in schools.”

“Students still tell us that they get harassed because of their perceived racial or immigrant identity,” said Wayne Ho, executive director of CACF. “To improve school safety, the regulation should be expanded beyond students to include teachers, counselors, safety agents, and other school personnel. We look forward to working with the DOE to strengthen the regulation and reduce bias-based harassment.”

The white paper and report card recommend the following to the DOE:

  • Fully implement Chancellor’s Regulation A-832;
  • Expand the regulation to include harassment perpetrated by school safety agents, teacher and staff;
  • Clarify and expand the regulation’s student and staff training requirements;
  • Implement a process of transparency, accountability and public reporting.

Pervasive harassment and bullying make schools hostile places, undermining students’ ability to flourish. Students who are routinely harassed and bullied often struggle to develop the self-confidence and social skills needed to succeed in life.

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