Audit: schools need to do more to protect students from harassment and discrimination.

Oct 13, 2017

State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli speaking at OUT Alliance in Rochester
Credit Alex Crichton

State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli came to Rochester to release the results of an audit of schools to see if they are in compliance with a law that requires schools' reporting of discrimination and harassment.

Dinapoli spoke at the new OUT Alliance, formerly the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, to announce details of an audit of state schools' compliance with the Dignity for All Students Act, or DASA, implemented four years ago.

It's designed to provide students a learning environment free from discrimination, harassment and bullying on school property, on school buses and at school functions.

"What we found is that too many schools remain unsure of what to do.  And they are making some errors in the reporting on incidents of harassment and bullying," he said.

Dinapoli says they found over 28 hundred Diginity Act incidents in 2015 and 2016 in Monroe County, but nearly a third of schools reported no incidents at all.

He says that clearly indicates that incidents of bullying and discrimination were not being reported.

And that's apparent in many schools statewide.

Executive Director of the OUT Alliance, Scott Fearing, says the Dignity for All Students Act is a powerful tool, if its's implemented correctly.

"What we hear when we're out doing education in the schools is, it can be burdensome from an administrative point of view, and what we know when the legislation was put into place, there was not a position created to do it, so people are trying to do it on top of their regular jobs," he said.

Comptroller Dinapoli says the State Education Department agrees with his findings.

His office is making several recommendations:

"First, the State Education Department should assess where the weaknesses are in living up the Dignity Act and work with schools to implement it appropriately. Second, we recommend working with the Center for School Safety or other similar entities to improve training on how to determine how and when to report incidents under the dignity Act, how to file accurate reports that categorize the types of harassment and to keep adequate records.  Finally, the state Education Department should emphasize to school and district officials the importance of maintaining records.  In too many cases we found, schools had little information on the incidents they reported," he said.

Dinapoli plans a follow up audit in a year or so.

Here's the Comptroller talking about DACA: