In July 2010, the Dignity for All Students Act – or DASA – was established to promote a safe and supportive learning environment in all public schools, free from harassment and discrimination from other students and adults.
DASA establishes a number of standards for schools, when it comes to instruction, certain district policies and procedures and identifying and reporting incidents of bullying, harassment and discrimination in school.
“No student shall be subjected to harassment or bullying by employees or students on school property or at a school function; nor shall any student be subjected to discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.” (State Education Laws of 2010, Effective: July 1, 2012).
Bullying, harassment and discrimination in NYS public schools
A guide for parents
How do I know if my child is being bullied?
What is harassment?
Harassment is the creation of a hostile environment that unreasonably and substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being.
What is bullying?
Bullying includes such actions as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Bullying is an unwanted, aggressive intentional form of harassment that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Examples of cyberbullying include hostile or threatening text messages, e-mails, posts on social networking sites and inappropriate pictures, videos, websites or fake profiles.
What is discrimination?
Discrimination, as defined by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), is the “denial of equal treatment, admission and/or access to programs, facilities and services based on the person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity), or sex.”
Examples of bullying include, but are not limited to:
· Verbal: Name-calling, teasing, sexual comments, taunting and threatening to cause harm.
· Social: Spreading rumors about someone, excluding others on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone and embarrassing someone in public.
· Physical: Hitting, punching, shoving, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s property and making mean or rude hand gestures. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)
Signs that a child is being bullied:
Be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. Signs of bullying include:
· Unexplainable injuries;
· Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry;
· Frequent headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick or faking illness to avoid school or social situations;
· Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating (kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch);
· Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares;
· Avoidance of such areas as the playground, cafeteria or restrooms;
· Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school;
· Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
· Loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed;
· Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem; and/or
· Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, self-harm or talking about suicide.
Signs that a child is bullying others:
Children may be bullying others if they:
· Get into physical or verbal fights;
· Have friends who bully others;
· Are increasingly aggressive;
· Have no regard for other people’s feelings;
· Disrespect authority and/or rules;
· Disrespect the opposite gender and people of different races, ethnicities or religions;
· Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently;
· Have unexplained extra money or new belongings;
· Blame others for their problems;
· Lie to get out of trouble;
· Deliberately hurt pets or animals;
· Use anger to get what they want;
· Refuse to accept responsibility for their actions; and/or
· Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity.
REMEMBER: Bullying almost always requires adult intervention.
Roles kids play in a bullying situation
Kids who bully: These children engage in bullying behavior toward their peers. There are many factors that may contribute to this behavior. Often, these youth require support to change their behavior and address any other challenges that may be influencing them. Don’t hesitate to speak to a counselor at your child’s school and ask for help.
Kids who are bullied: Some factors put children at greater risk of being bullied,. If you are worried that your child is being bullied seek help from school administration or counselors right away.
Bystanders – even kids who are not bullies and who are not bullied are impacted by bullying behavior. They witness it happening and they may either encourage it, avoid it or try to discourage it. These children may need support and help to deal with the bullying they observe; your school counselor can help!
Most kids play more than one role in bullying over time.
It is important to note the multiple roles kids play, because those who are both bullied and bully others may be at more risk for negative outcomes, such as depression or suicidal tendencies. It also highlights the need to engage all kids in prevention efforts, not just those who are known to be directly involved.
How do I talk to my child about bullying?
· Talk to your child about what bullying is and make sure he or she understands that it is unacceptable behavior. It is never too early to bring it up; for younger children talk about being mean rather than using the term bullying.
· Keep the lines of communication open with your child – know your child’s friends, ask about the school day, listen to any questions or concerns that arise.
· Tell your child to talk to you or a trusted adult at school if he or she is ever bullied – or ever witness an incident of bullying. Tell your child it’s okay to stand up to a bully by saying “STOP” or by simply walking away.
· Model how to treat others with respect and understanding.
· Encourage a child to be involved in activities he/she enjoys. This will make him/her more confident and boost self-esteem.
What do I do if I think my child is being bullied?
• Get as much information as you can from your child – What happened? When? How many times did it happen? Who else was there? How did your child respond? How does your child feel about what happened? Is your child worried it will happen again?
• Listen. Don’t blame.
• Try to identify if it was, in fact, bullying. Don’t call it bullying until you’ve gathered all of the facts.
• If you believe your child is being bullied, contact your child’s teacher or school principal. These individuals are trained in the DASA requirements and can help you and your child.
• DASA requires every school in New York State to have a dignity act coordinator. This is someone who is trained to handle incidents of bullying and harassment in schools and is another important contact for parents. Contact information for this person can be found on your school district’s website or by calling your child’s school.
What do I do if I think my child is a bully?
• Talk to your child about the specific behavior and why it is wrong. Does your child understand that the behavior is unacceptable?
• Calmly tell your child that bullying will not be tolerated.
• Ask your child WHY he or she bullied. Try to understand the reasons and offer solutions.
• Use consequences to teach – not humiliate.
• Call your child’s teacher, principal, social worker, guidance counselor to talk about what happened and strategies for moving forward.
• Continue to talk to your child about positive behavior and how his or her behavior impacts others.
For more information about DASA in your school, contact your school’s Dignity Act Coordinator.