My school year has gotten off to an interesting start. I am one of the people from Youth Development who has been training school staff and others about the requirements of the Dignity for All Students Act as part of Dignity Act CoSer. It has not been unusual for me to start my day at 7:30 am with a training session for faculty before school starts and then to end my day at 3:00 at another school with a different faculty. I have heard many stories from many individuals, including teachers, administrators, teaching aides, counselors, bus drivers, and custodians, to name a few. Here are some things I’ve learned in the process:
- Most faculty and other school employees want to do the right thing with regards to responding to students who have been bullied and harassed. Most of us know that being treated with respect feels SO much better than being ignored or treated poorly.
- The Dignity Act will NOT make a difference in NY schools if the adults follow the guidelines just because they want to be in compliance with the law. Students can tell the difference between adults who are trying to avoid trouble and/or litigation and those who are genuinely interested in them and their well-being.
- Schools that approach the Dignity Act as another way to promote a positive school climate will probably have the best outcomes both in terms of decreased levels of bullying and harassment and student achievement. As Dr. Jaana Juvonen from UCLA said in her 2011 study of bullying and academic performance, Ignoring or not being able to “afford” to address social-emotional issues, such as bullying, may be a very short-sighted view of educational progress. . . the connection between students’ peer relationships and their academic performance is irrefutable.