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‘Dignity For All Students’

State and federal laws propel changes in policy and create new coordinator

As the state and federal laws have changed, the Great Neck School District is providing necessary policy revisions and naming dignity act coordinators in the district. There are currently proposed revisions to the policy on the Code of Conduct: Prohibited Student Conduct and to the policy on the Code of Conduct: Public Conduct on School Property. 

At a recent board of education public action meeting, Joseph Hickey, assistant superintendent for special education and pupil services, reviewed the Dignity For All Students Act, explaining that this legislation took 11 years to develop and 13 years to go into effect. The Dignity Act was signed into law on Sept. 13, 2010 and took effect on July 1, 2012. 

 According to the New York State Department of Education, the New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a “safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.”

Dr. Hickey said that the changes in school district policy “fulfill” the new laws. He said that the district does have Dignity Act coordinators (DA coordinators). The coordinators are from within the school district and they do review curriculum. There is now a coordinator in each building and there are methods as to how to report bullying.

All DA coordinators are professional Dignity Act trained.

Dr. Hickey also reported that the Great Neck School District has been “meeting all the requests for the past 13 years … we accept and embrace differences.” 

He said that the Great Neck schools already have over 100 programs in place, programs that address issues listed by the state as topics to pinpoint. And he noted that the district is updating the policies on code of conduct. Dr. Hickey also said that the district “has already put some mechanisms in place.” Some of these “mechanisms” include reporting an incident (such as bullying.” All “incidents” must be reported.


School Board Policies

In conjunction with all of the new laws and all of the changes in the Great Neck schools, there are proposals to revise two Code of Conduct policies: Code of Conduct: Prohibited Student Conduct and Code of Conduct: Public Conduct on School Property. 

Both policies are being considered for revision to expand their lists of classes protected from discrimination as identified by the New York State Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). These two policy revisions address recent state and federal law regarding synthetic substances designed to “mimic” the effects and usages of illegal drugs. Since the two policy first readings on Jan. 28, the policies have been further amended to include “physical characteristics among the categories that are protected from discrimination. 

Neither of these two policies saw any school board action taken at the March 11 public hearing. Each will be brought before the board again at the April 8 public action meeting. A new policy, a policy revision or a policy revision must come before the board at a public meeting at least three times prior to adoption.