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Back to School, Not Back to Fear: Hope For NY Kids

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Monday, August 19, 2013   

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - As the new school year approaches, some students may be apprehensive - despite the start of year two under the state's Dignity for All Students Act, aimed at cracking down on bullying. David Kilmnick of Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth welcomed news of a court settlement from upstate a few days ago ordering a school district to develop training to monitor and combat harassment.

"It's an extremely positive decision," Kilmnick said. "Hopefully, school districts will do the right thing because it's in their heart to do the right thing. But if not, maybe they'll learn, because it will hit their pocketbook pretty hard."

In Philadelphia, N.Y., a 15-year-old who had been bullied because he was gay sued because he was driven to drop out. The Dignity for All Students Act expanded the obligation to prevent harassment to include "protected characteristics" such as gender identity and sexual orientation.

After just one full school year, David Kilmnick said the Dignity Act, which is an unfunded mandate, is too new to evaluate fully.

"I know certainly through our organization, we hear of just as much, if not more, incidences of bullying taking place in our schools," he said.

His group works with more than 110 of Long Island's 127 school districts in training school personnel to comply with the Act. Child Abuse Prevention Services does, too, and spokesperson Patty Cathers said, "Do I think that schools may not have all of the language and the tools in regard to all of it? Yes. But I do think with training and with more education and more awareness, I do believe that there is hope for continued change."

Kilmnick's organization is pointing toward an event on October 11th, called National Coming Out Day.

"It's a charge to all the students, no matter what their sexual orientation is, to come out on National Coming Out Day," he said. "Not come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but come out in support of safer schools."




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