Earlier this morning, New York Gov. David Paterson (D) signed the Dignity for All Students Act into law, an inclusive anti-harassment bill hailed by safe schools advocates. The bill prohibits bullying and harassment in public schools based on "actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex," and defines "gender" to include "a person's gender identity or expression."
Coming during National Suicide Prevention Week, the signing was hailed by the Trevor Project's executive director Charles Robbins, who said in a news release that "[t]he law would make New York one of more than 40 states with anti-bullying laws, 14 of which plus the District of Columbia provide inclusive protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression."
He went on:
"When youth are threatened at school, or their property gets stolen at school, and they fight at school, the odds that they will attempt suicide more than double. Considering more than half of sexual minority youth in schools have been verbally harassed and one in ten is physically assaulted, the Dignity for All Students Act with the inclusion of gender identity and expression will be a giant step to reducing instances of self-harm and suicide that result from harassment by school peers."
As part of the week, the Trevor Project on Tuesday noted its participation in "Take 5 To Save Lives," a new collaborative education effort produced by the National Council for Suicide Prevention.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's executive director, Rea Carey, said of the signing in a statement:
"We applaud the Dignity for All Students Act Coalition and other advocates who worked so tirelessly on this issue; state lawmakers for passing this legislation; and Gov. David Paterson for signing it into law. Safe schools for our young people should be the rule, not the exception."