The State Education Department (SED) made progress in ensuring school districts across New York are protecting students from harassment and discrimination, according to a follow-up report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Bullying is a widespread problem that can cause lasting damage to a child’s health and well-being. We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to stop it from happening,” DiNapoli said. “I commend the State Education Department for acting on my audit and strengthening its efforts to enforce the Dignity for All Students Act.”
An audit released by DiNapoli in October 2017 found that despite guidance from SED, many schools had not implemented some critical requirements of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). Several schools lacked training and others made significant errors when it came to reporting incidents under DASA.
DASA seeks to provide students in New York with a secure environment free from discrimination, harassment and bullying. Research shows that students who are bullied or harassed are more likely to miss days of school, experience higher rates of depression, and have lower academic achievement and aspirations. Provisions of the law include curriculum and annual reporting requirements and require schools to designate a trained Dignity Act Coordinator. SED provides guidance to assist school districts in complying with DASA requirements and makes annual school incident data available to the public on its website.
DiNapoli previously recommended that SED take steps to assess weaknesses in implementing DASA and assign adequate resources to promote schools’ compliance, work with training partners to enhance DASA training and remind schools that they are required to keep records of incidents.
This follow up audit found SED, in collaboration with the New York State Center for School Safety (NYSCFSS), enhanced its training by providing webinars and training sessions that have been tailored to better meet user needs. Training content now includes examples that clearly distinguish reportable from non-reportable incidents, and includes a template that describes the details that need to be documented in incident investigation records.
Other improvements address SED’s School Safety and the Educational Climate (SSEC) Summary Data Collection results, which is part of its implementation of both DASA and Violent or Disruptive Incident Reporting. SED and NYSCFSS have made record retention requirements clear through professional development trainings. SED has also included the record retention requirements on the “Responding to Incidents” sample form it made available during an August 2018 training and on the NYSCFSS website.
DiNapoli’s auditors found SED has still not developed a risk assessment that incorporates known and suspected weaknesses in DASA implementation. However, SED officials stated that they, along with NYSCFSS, plan to conduct a reasonability analysis of 2018-19 SSEC data and follow up with schools based on the results of the analysis. They are waiting to receive data from all schools before proceeding with the analysis.
Read the report, or go to: https://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093020/sga-2020-19f32.pdf
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