In a 53-3 vote last night, the state Senate passed the Dignity for All Students Act, which prohibits harassment in school based on "actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex."
The bill ensures discrimination complaints may be filed with the Division of Human Rights, and would require school officials to post school violence hotline information in their hallways. Governor Paterson said, "At a time when our children are bullied to the point of contemplating suicide, it is clear that school officials must be vigilant in their efforts to prevent these incidents and protect their students."
The LGBT community sees this as a human rights victory, as it is the first time the state Senate has passed any legislation which references gender identity. Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Ross Levi told Gay City News, "This significant law will now protect some of our community’s most vulnerable members — transgender youth for whom unsafe schools can be the beginning of a lifetime of marginalization that can include health issues and even homelessness."
One of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Eric T. Schneiderman (D-Manhattan), also said in a statement, "It's Pride Month and we ought to celebrate this proud moment for New York State...This legislation ensures students' right to an education in schools that are free from anti-LGBT bullying, verbal abuse and physical violence."