NY Assembly Member O’Donnell Introduces Dignity for All Students Update

Bill A5318 includes key student suicide prevention provisions, school personnel training, and online school climate measures

Albany, New York – New York State Assembly Member Danny O'Donnel recently introduced legislation to update the Dignity for All Students Act, the landmark legislation to prevent and address bullying in schools. The updates reflect Assembly Member O’Donnell’s extreme concern for the state of suicide prevention efforts in schools, and incorporates broad updates to oversight, teacher trainings, digital citizenship, and more.

Significant bullying, harassment, and discrimination in schools continues to contribute to soaring rates of suicidal ideation among students. The urgency is stronger than ever to provide teachers and school staff the support they need to respond to incidents of bullying, and integrate policies to support LGBTQ students, students of color, and other marginalized communities. The Dignity for All Students Act, sponsored by Assembly Member O’Donnell and originally passed in 2010, aimed to create a learning environment for all students free of harassment and discrimination.

Assembly Member O’Donnell said, “When I took on anti-LGBTQ and other discriminatory bullying in our schools, I fought like hell to pass legislation that explicitly states no bullying will be tolerated in New York State and ensure that all students feel safe coming to school. Today, there is a tragic increase in young adult suicides and attempts. This legislation is absolutely necessary to keep our youth safe and ensure all children remain part of their communities, whether in the school building or online. DASA was a landmark bill that made significant strides towards addressing bullying, but it is time for an update to match our modern world and respond to the separation from community that young people feel, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We are seeing terrifyingly high suicide numbers amongst young people. Data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics in 2022 indicated that both the number and the rate of suicides in the United States increased 4 percent from 2020 to 2021, after two consecutive years of decline in 2019 and 2020. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34. In addition, young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and behavior, and suicide attempts and injury by attempt have risen significantly amongst Black adolescents since the 1990s. A 2021 survey by the CDC found 12% of female students, more than 25% of LGB students, 35% of trans students, and 17% of other or questioning students attempted suicide during the past year.

Assembly Member Deborah Glick said, “The Dignity for All Students Act made clear that bullying and harassment has no place in our schools. Yet the scourge of bullying and harassment of our students - especially LGBTQ students and students of color - remains at worryingly high levels. Since the original passage of DASA, young people spend substantial time on the internet for both educational and recreational purposes. This can result in greater isolation, suicidal ideation and provides an avenue for more negative self-image comparisons in digital spaces. I thank Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell for championing these important updates to DASA and look forward to their swift passage in the Assembly.”

Assembly Member Bronson said: "School is a place for learning not just academically, but socially and emotionally. Creating inclusive educational environments has important societal impacts. Students who feel supported and included at school focus on learning, form healthy relationships and gain valuable opportunities. Today, with social media, bullying has as many forms as it does awful consequences. Self-esteem can be permanently damaged when students don't feel they can be and express themselves. Which can lead to suicide and suicide attempts. Updating DASA is about changing the educational experience by helping students, teachers, and personnel understand acceptance without judgment. This is especially important for LGBTQ+ students and students of Color."

Assembly Member Tony Simone said, "Thanks to the Dignity for All Students Act, New York schools have led the way in moving towards a safe learning environment for all. However, the rates of bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools remains far too high, particularly targeted at LGBTQ students, leading to tragic results. I applaud Assemblymember O’Donnell for continuing to keep the safety of our kids a priority and am proud to join him as a co-sponsor."

In our increasingly digital world, these updates to the Dignity for All Students Act focus on creating a safe school community free from bullying and harassment by addressing several factors together: teacher training, oversight and reporting, mental health, bullying prevention, digital citizenship, and media literacy. These updates strengthen DASA’s goal of teaching students to respect each other in person and on the internet, and to see themselves as part of a community whether in the school building or online.