After more than four years of refusing to deal comprehensively with bullying in schools, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced a major new initiative to combat the problem that they have minimized in the past, but now acknowledge impedes “our students’ ability to learn.”
The two officials were surrounded at a hastily called press conference on Wed., Sept. 3, by advocates of the Dignity in All Schools Act (DASA), a 2004 City Council bill that mandated most of what Bloomberg is implementing only now. He vetoed that earlier bill, dismissing it then as “silly” and “illegal,” and the Council did not take him to court after it overrode the veto, but the mayor still refused to implement the law....
[P]ressure from the Sikh Coalition may have been the key to turning it into the chancellor’s regulations announced last week. Amardeep Singh, executive director of the coalition, said a survey of 400 Sikh students in New York City Schools found 65 percent had faced bias-based harassment, such as being called “terrorist or Osama,” and that 20 percent had been “touched or hit.” The coalition demanded the regulations in a June 30 march through Richmond Hill, Queens, compelling Klein finally to promise them action.
“We made substantial progress,” Singh said. “For the necessary sea change to take place, we still have work to do.” The group wants to see public reporting by category of harassment victims, something the mayor said would be done but which Singh said is not explicit in the regulations.
Singh also said he and his group had absolutely no problem with Sikh children being taught to respect gays and lesbians.
“We believe in equality for all,” he said, decrying the idea that “anybody’s dignity would be denigrated.” He noted that two Sikh members of the Canadian Parliament voted for same-sex marriage to the consternation of Sikh leaders in India but not in their home districts. [Link]
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