The Sag Harbor Board of Education is making the right decision in choosing to incorporate the New York State Dignity for All Students Act, also known as “DASA,” into its Code of Conduct — a document that has not been updated in more than a decade. And in an increasingly digitized social world, it is also wisely considering language to make the code of conduct applicable to incidents that occur off-campus, including threats made on social media or harassment that has the potential to “substantially disrupt” the educational environment.
In essence, DASA requires school districts to put policy in place to protect students from discrimination and harassment, which, unfortunately, are not uncommon experiences for many students, especially those in middle and high school. Not only does DASA protect students from discrimination or harassment based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation, but also gender identity. Reporting, and recording, these incidents is required under DASA, which provides students an extra layer of protection.
As most understand, however, harassment and discrimination do not always occur in the open, obvious to teachers, staff or administrators. More often, the behavior unfolds behind the scenes, through cyber-bullying that can occur on or off campus. Making off-campus behavior that “substantially” disrupts the educational environment a violation of the on-campus Code of Conduct is a necessity in this day and age.
While we support the board and commend it for considering these changes, in the future, the changes should be outlined in memo form, or made clear within the policy itself for members of the public far in advance of a board discussion. Expecting the public to comb through a 31-page document and compare and contrast sections to discover what is new or what has been altered is unnecessary when a simple memo from the board president, superintendent or school district attorney would suffice.