As students settle into the new school year, the first phase of a new statewide anti-bullying law is already in place. More children will now be protected, and more will be required of school districts.
The Dignity For All Students Act defines some of the groups of students that are now protected from harassment and discrimination. In addition to groups that are typically protected like race and gender, this law also includes, but is not limited to, protection for students bullied because of weight, ethnicity, religion, disability and sexual orientation.
Students are protected against discrimination while on school grounds, not only by other students, but by employees as well.
This law went into effect July 1, and according to Tim Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association, school districts are also required to make adjust how they prevent bullying.
"There is going to have to be changes made in the school's code of conduct, there is going to be training for employees there will be identified in each school a person who is called the dignity for all students act coordinator, there will be instruction that will be provided to each student," Kremer said. "And if there are incidents of discrimination it has to be reported to the state Education Department."
Kremer says by and large school districts support these measures, and believe they will be a positive change for students. But, Kremer says, districts worry about paying for the new requirements in times of ever-tightening budgets.
Next year, the law requiring schools to combat cyber bullying, which was passed by the New York state legislature last session, will go into effect.
Some school officials have expressed concern about implementing the cyber bullying law, because schools will be required to monitor student activity online that may or may not occur on school grounds or during school hours.
"The emphasis will be put on cyber bullying which takes it to a whole new level because you're talking about social media and all the impact you have there. And with the issue of anonymity it takes it to a very difficult place," said Kremer.