Tuesday, September 7, 2010

N.Y. Governor to Sign Antibullying Bill

On Wednesday, New York governor David Paterson will sign the Dignity for All Students Act, a long-awaited antibullying law that, in a first for the state, includes protections for gender identity and expression.

DASA, as the measure is known, passed the senate in June after being passed by the assembly every year since 2002. Governor Paterson will sign the bill Wednesday at 11 a.m. in a ceremony at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan.

The law would make New York one of more than 40 states with antibullying laws, 14 of which plus the District of Columbia provide inclusive protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The signing will occur as antigay Christian groups like Focus on the Family have seized on the back-to-school season to decry antibullying measures as a way to “promote homosexuality.”

According to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which invited members to the bill signing via e-mail Friday, “The Dignity for All Students Act would allow teachers, parents, students, and school administrators to address bullying and bias-related behavior of all kinds that interfere with student safety and learning. The act will foster the development of rules to prevent and respond to discriminatory harassment and hate violence. It will establish teacher, staff, and administrative training guidelines. Discrimination awareness will be incorporated into civility and character-education curricula. And incidents of bias harassment will have to be reported to the state education department."

The Dignity for All Students Act will protect students on the basis of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, weight, and disability.

DASA represents a historic step for New York as the first state law to include protections based on gender identity and expression. Just weeks before the bill passed the senate, the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act, also an eagerly awaited piece of legislation already passed by the assembly, died in the senate judiciary committee. GENDA would protect transgender individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, after the Sexual Orientation Non-discrimination Act failed to include them in 2003.

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