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New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy
24 W. 25th St., 9th floor New York, NY 10010 Tel: 212-675-3288, x266 Fax: 212-675-3466

NYAGRA letter to NYS Senate Majority Leader Bruno
re DASA & safe schools legislation (6.13.2003)

New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy
24 W. 25th St., 9th floor
New York, NY 10010 (212) 675-3288, ext. 266
<www.nyagra.tripod.com>

Hon. Joseph L. Bruno
Senate Majority Leader & President Pro Tem
New York State Senate
909 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247

13 June 2003

Dear Senator,

I am writing to urge the New York State Senate in the final days of the
2003 session to meet with the New York State Assembly and reconcile the
Senate Majority’s Schools as Safe Harbors Act (S.4023) with the Dignity
for All Students Act (A.1118 / S.1925) so that every New York student
can be protected from bias harassment and bullying in schools.

The New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy is the first
statewide transgender advocacy organization in New York, and we 
advocate
on behalf of transgendered and gender-variant people throughout the
state.  NYAGRA is a member of the Dignity for All Students Coalition, a
consortium of over 170 community groups statewide committed to ending
bias-harassment and discrimination in the state’s public schools 
(K-12).

The Schools as Safe Harbors Act passed the Senate earlier this week 
with
only four dissenting votes.  The Dignity for All Students Act passed 
the
Assembly a few days earlier with only eight dissenting votes.  While 
the
Safe Harbors bill is a decent attempt at combating bias harassment in
schools, it is lacking in comparison to the stronger provisions of the
Dignity bill in a number of important respects, including:

* the omission of any teacher training on how to prevent and respond to
bias bullying;
* no prohibition on harassment by school staff or anyone other than a
student;
* a very limited definition of verbal bullying;
* barring a private cause of action as an enforcement mechanism with
non-compliant school districts;
* the absence of any protection from discrimination; and
* no specific definition of gender to include gender identity and
expression.

Clearly there is a strong bipartisan sentiment that bias bullying is a
problem in New York’s schools, and that a law should be passed to
address it.  It would be a tragedy if political differences were to
condemn students to another year of harassment because the legislature
could not agree on an approach to comprehensively protect students from
this bias-based bullying.    We urge the Senate to find common ground
with the Assembly and pass a law THIS SESSION so that no child need to
return to school this September under the threat of bias harassment.  
We
urge you to work with your colleagues and legislative leaders to spur
discussions immediately on a compromise measure to make every New York
school a “hate-free zone.”   Thank you.

Sincerely,


Pauline Park, co-chair

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