NY Senate Passes Anti-Bullying and Harassment Bill to Protect Students; Lambda Legal Urges Governor to Sign Bill Into Law
(New York, NY, June 23, 2010) — Yesterday, the New York Senate passed the "Dignity For All Students Act" that would clearly prohibit all bias-based bullying, including harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, in the state's public schools. This bipartisan vote of 58-3 came after the bill had already passed in the House on May 17. In response, Lambda Legal released the following statement from Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director:
"Lambda Legal applauds lawmakers for joining to together to pass this important piece of legislation to clearly protect students who are vulnerable to bullying, harassment and discrimination, and we urge Governor Paterson to quickly sign the bill into law. We congratulate our sister organizations and allies, including Empire State Pride Agenda, who worked tirelessly for its passage.
"Enacting the clearest possible protections for students represents a great victory for New York's students, parents, and educators, because schools should be a place where children can learn safely, regardless of their personal characteristics including actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
"Our client Charlie Pratt endured years of antigay harassment at Indian River High School while teachers and administrators who knew about the bullying took no effective action. Charlie had to leave school because the administration could not maintain a safe environment. It was only after Lambda Legal sued the upstate New York school district last year that the school even allowed Charlie's sister, Ashley, to form a gay-straight alliance. We hope the passage of this anti-bullying legislation will ensure that students in New York don't have to fear going to school like our client Charlie Pratt did.
"As an additional protection Governor Paterson submitted to the legislature Program Bill No. 291 that would reinforce that the NY Human Rights Law applies to public schools, and would require school officials to post school violence hotline information in their hallways. The bill reaffirms that bullying or discrimination complaints may continue to be filed with the Division of Human Rights. This is particularly important in the wake of a case called East Meadow Union Free School District v. NYS Division of Human Rights, in which the Appellate Division, Second Department held that the Human Rights Division did not have jurisdiction over public school districts. Lambda Legal represented civil rights groups from around the state in a friend-of-the court brief to present a comprehensive analysis showing the Human Rights Law's application to protect public school students. Lambda Legal subsequently submitted a brief urging the state's highest court to hear the matter but it declined to take up the issue.
"Denying protections of the Human Rights Law endangers all public school students. Program Bill 291 would put an end to misinterpretations, and Lambda Legal strongly supports its passage to reinforce protections for young people in New York's public schools."
Contact: Jonathan Adams 212-809-8585 ext 267; [email protected]
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.