FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 3, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, SPEAKER QUINN, AND CHANCELLOR KLEIN ANNOUNCE NEW ANTI-HARASSMENT INITIATIVES TO STOP BULLYING AND BIAS-RELATED INCIDENTS IN CITY'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS
New Chancellor's Regulation Calls for Prompt Investigation of Complaints; New Monitoring System Will Track Bias-Related Incidents
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced a comprehensive new set of initiatives aimed at combating bullying and harassment in New York City public schools. A new Chancellor's Regulation, A-832, will make New York City's efforts to combat bullying and harassment based on ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other factors among the most rigorous in the country. The new regulation, which builds on the City's "Respect for All" initiative, will require schools to make standards clear to students and staff, track and monitor all bias incidents, investigate complaints promptly, and take follow-up steps to ensure that schools are safe, supportive, and respectful learning environments for all students. The Mayor, Chancellor, and Speaker made the announcement at the Department of Education (DOE) headquarters. They were joined by United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan, as well as a wide range of community partners.
"Bullying and harassment impede our students' ability to learn. When students are victims of bullying because of race, sexual orientation, or other factors, they simply cannot focus on learning, and we cannot allow that," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Our students should always feel safe at school, and these initiatives will help ensure that they do. By holding students and administrators accountable, and by giving victims more opportunities to seek help, we can create safer schools with healthier learning environments. Enforcing the Chancellor's Regulation will not only ensure that incidents of bullying are handled swiftly and appropriately, it will also help prevent such incidents in the first place."
"Students learn best in a safe and positive environment," said Chancellor Klein. "I want to thank our community partners for working with us on the Respect for All program."
The new Chancellor's Regulation details a process for reporting and investigating incidents of bias-based harassment, intimidation, and bullying. The new regulation mandates that every principal designate a staff member to whom students can report incidents-and it establishes a new e-mail address, RespectForAll@schools.nyc.gov, where students who have been subjected to prohibited behavior but do not feel comfortable reporting incidents to their school can seek help. The regulation also requires each school to create an annual plan to ensure that it has a safe and supportive learning environment and it establishes that schools must train students in the new regulations, so that they understand what behaviors constitute bias-based harassment and where to go for help if they believe they have been subjected to prohibited behavior by bullies. Under the new regulation, schools will report all complaints of harassment, intimidation, or bullying within 24 hours. They will also conduct full investigations, including interviews and written statements. In addition, the regulation requires staff members who either witness or are told about incidents to report them-and it says schools must contact the families of accused students. The DOE will also work with schools to take appropriate follow-up steps after incidents. This could include sending students to counseling, helping schools to train staff, or intervening to protect the safety of alleged victims.
The regulation builds on the Respect for All initiative, which was launched last year. Respect for All is a training program for school staff that prepares teachers, guidance counselors, and others to identify and address bullying, harassment, and intimidation. This year, for the first time, schools will distribute Respect for All brochures to all students and prominently post Respect for All posters. The new materials explain what is considered harassment or discriminatory behavior and direct students where they can go for help. The DOE has also created new lessons that schools can use to teach students about bias-related bullying.
Also for the first time, DOE has launched a system that tracks bias-related incidents as part of its safety incident reporting system. Under the new system, these incidents will be reviewed by principals and central DOE staff. This tracking system will allow reviewers to spot trends in bullying incidents and take appropriate action to address problems.
A wide array of advocates and community partners worked with schools, students, and central DOE staff to develop the City's efforts to address bullying and bias-related incidents in City schools.
"It is unacceptable for any student to feel unsafe in his or her own school, or be denied their right to a high quality education because they have to endure the emotional distress of discrimination or the physical torment of hazing, taunting, and bullying," said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "These new regulations combined with the Respect for All Initiative will go a long way in ensuring that school officials and young people are appropriately informed and trained and that we are accurately tracking incidents of harassment as they occur. These uniform requirements will provide our students with the security of knowing that they have access to any help and support they need as the new school year begins."
"The new regulation is groundbreaking movement in the right direction to rid our schools of bias-based bullying," said Sikh Coalition Executive Director, Amardeep Singh. "We look forward to partnering with Chancellor Klein to make the regulation's promise of city schools without bias and bigotry real for our children."
"PFLAG NYC applauds the new Chancellor's Regulation for requiring schools to track bias-related intimidation and harassment and for requiring training for school staff and students to minimize and eliminate harassment in schools," said Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of New York City (PFLAG NYC) Executive Director, Drew Tagliabue.
"We have worked for years to ensure that Asian Pacific American and all New York City public school students attend schools that are free from harassment. The new Chancellor's Regulation on bias-based harassment is a positive step forward in achieving this goal," said Coalition for Asian American Children and Families Executive Director, Wayne Ho. "We look forward to working with the Department of Education to successfully implement this Chancellor's Regulation and ensure that schools are given the proper resources and training to maintain safe and supportive learning environments."
"Operation Respect is very proud to participate in this effort to take an important policy and translate it into practice in a way that is not imposed, but embraced by all of us," said Operation Respect Education Director, Mark Weiss.
"The Chancellor's Regulation issued today, along with the City's renewed commitment to the Respect for All training program, created in collaboration with GLSEN and other partners, is a crucial step toward addressing the bullying and harassment that effects so many of the City's students, particularly those who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director, Kevin Jennings.
"New York schools should be characterized by civility and respect for all," said the Anti-Defamation League's New York regional director, Joel J. Levy. "Harassment and discrimination are destructive forces that have no place in our schools. The Respect for All initiative is an important step toward improving our schools that can also have a positive impact outside the classroom."
"As the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit serving lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, we have seen firsthand the devastating effects that bullying, harassment and bias have on young people throughout our City and beyond," said The Hetrick-Martin Institute's executive director, Thomas Krever. "We commend Mayor Bloomberg, City Council members, and Chancellor Joel Klein for their vision and for recognizing that this important and crucial legislation will help protect all of our City's young people and will encourage life-long lessons in tolerance and respect for all."
"I applaud the Respect for All initiative," said Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility Executive Director Tom Roderick, whose organization helps schools throughout New York City foster conflict resolution and eliminate bullying. "Bullying and harassment are serious problems in schools here and throughout the country. Respect for All's new brochure encourages school leaders to give a clear, strong message to the entire school community that this behavior is not acceptable-and that is an enormous first step toward freeing our schools from bullying and harassment."
"Schools must be safe havens for students and their teachers in order for the real give-and-take of instruction to happen, and this Chancellor's regulation is an important step toward that end because it affirms students' rights to pursue their education without the fear and distraction of bullying," said American Federation of Teachers and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. "The United Federation of Teachers has always supported efforts to improve school safety, and we are glad more attention is being focused on this very important issue-one that touches, unfortunately, all too often on the lives of students and their teachers and parents as well. Everyone in the system needs to be held accountable for keeping our schools safe, and that includes students who should know there are consequences for such bad behavior."
"CSA supports this new regulation because we believe students have a right to receive a quality education in a safe learning environment free from bullying, harassment, and intimidation," said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan. "The policies and procedures put forth in this regulation will hopefully not only deter discriminatory behavior, but will also teach our children to understand and respect one another."
"As students begin a new school year, it is important that we do everything we can to keep them safe from bullying and harassment," said City Council Education Committee Chairman Robert Jackson. "It is about time for new regulations that will require our schools to uniformly report incidents of harassment, and will guarantee to victims of bullying or harassment that the City will investigate all complaints within 24 hours are introduced. These regulations are a commitment to our students that we take their safety and well being seriously, and will do whatever we can to ensure that they have the ability to learn in an environment that is safe and accepting."
"The goal of the Respect For All program is to ensure that students understand the importance of respect and live up to their responsibility to be mindful of others in the school," said Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm.
"The Office of School and Youth Development provides age-appropriate lessons for classroom teachers in conjunction with the distribution of the Discipline Code," said OSYD Chief Executive Elayna Konstan. "To support the Respect for All program, additional lessons addressing bullying and harassment will be available this year."
"The new steps outlined today will help us make sure that all students are afforded a safe and harassment free environment in which to learn," said Senior Counselor to the Chancellor Brian Ellner.
Respect for All is a training program for staff members in middle and high schools that enables them to serve as resources for students who may have questions about bias-related incidents. The department developed the program in collaboration with community advocacy partners. More than 1,000 supervisors, teachers and counselors have been trained to date, and more are to be trained this year. While the training is primarily for middle and high schools, the DOE has begun a Respect for All outreach program to students in all grades.
Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker (212) 788-2958
David Cantor (Department of Education)
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