A.G. Schneiderman and Rep. Maloney: School Bullying and Religious Discrimination are Illegal and Will Not Be Tolerated
NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) today warned that violation of laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated, and pledged to pursue a full state and federal response to the allegations of bullying and pervasive harassment of and discrimination against Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District. Representative Maloney and Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following joint statement:
“School students must be protected from illegal bullying and discrimination regardless of their faith or their religious practices. We will not turn a blind eye to instances of bullying that leave physical or psychological scars on children of all ages. Schools should be a safe haven for students to learn and grow, not a place of hatred and persecution. These allegations, lodged by students in the Pine Bush Central School District and their families are deeply troubling. Building on the investigation that the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau has been conducting, we are committed to ensuring a full state, federal and local response that both addresses this matter and protects students across our state from hate and anti-Semitism.”
Last November, Attorney General Schneiderman’s Civil Rights Bureau launched an investigation after receiving complaints that Jewish students enrolled in the Pine Bush Central School District -- which covers seven townships located in Ulster, Sullivan and Orange Counties – were subjected to pervasive harassment and discrimination. The Dignity for All Students Act, which was signed into law on September 8, 2010 is New York's first comprehensive statewide anti-bullying legislation and stands as a powerful tool against discrimination and harassment in public elementary and secondary schools.
The Act protects New York students while promoting increased tolerance and lessons in diversity, and provides broad and meaningful protections for all students against harassment based on a person's actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex.
In addition to conducting an investigation into the allegations, Rep. Maloney and Attorney General Schneiderman called on Congress to protect other students from similar abuse by passing the Safe School Improvement Act - the first federal law to prevent bullying and harassment in schools. This bi-partisan legislation would give schools more resources they need to prevent school bullying and ensure that students are protected from bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
They also called on local officials to use all available resources to ensure that students, parents and communities have information and tools on how to prevent and report bullying.
Incidents of school bullying are on the rise in New York and across the country. In a recent survey, fewer than half of students (44%) in New York schools reported feeling very safe at school, while 39 percent of students reported bullying, name calling and harassment to be serious problems in their school.