DASA working to take bullying out of schools

— The hallways at North Syracuse Junior High School are decorated with posters begging students to change the way they act and think in the face of bullying.

The North Syracuse Central School District is fighting against a culture that has taught children that discrimination and harassment are tolerable offenses.

On Tuesday Nov. 27, a handful of parents joined district leaders to see a presentation about the Dignity for All Students Act, which was signed into law by former Gov. David Paterson on Sept. 13, 2010 and took effect July 1.

According to the district website, DASA “seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.”

“It’s a statute some might argue was overdue,” said Laura Harshbarger, an attorney with the district’s law firm, Bond Schoeneck & King.

The concept of bullying is a “very emotional issue,” she added.

The bully is no longer one who steals lunch money on the playground or gives the incoming freshmen swirlies in the boy’s bathroom. Today’s bully not only resides in the classroom, but online and via text message — they have become nameless and faceless in many instances, better known as cyberbullying.

According to Harshbarger, statistics show that 1 in 5 teens are bullied in school, 25 percent are bullied online, and 50 percent of the time bullying behavior will stop wit in 10 seconds if another student intervenes.

“While DASA is telling us what we need to do to respond ... the constituency with the most power is the students,” Harshbarger said.

Through modern television, political discourse and other media, our culture is teaching students that it’s OK to bully in one form or another. Harshbarger used the example of Simon Cowel of “American Idol” cutting down those who didn’t perform to his expectations or shows like “Survivor,” where people are tossed off an island as a way culture is being shaped by television.

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