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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dignity For All

I attended a conference yesterday that focused on the upcoming Dignity for All Students Act. This state legislation, which takes effect on July 1, 2012, is intended to reduce harassment and discrimination through a systemic approach that promotes an understanding of diversity, tolerance, respect, and acceptance.
The legislation (called DASA) protects against all forms of harassment, particularly those based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
This challenge grows more difficult each day that students are exposed to the uncivil behaviors evidenced by adults in the form of some radio and TV talk shows that spew anger and hate. It appears that unbridled contempt between adversaries plays out in the media in all too frequent news stories.
The virtual anonymity of social media, emails, texting, and instant messaging has spawned negative exchanges among students that would often not happen in face-to-face interactions. We are experiencing disagreements in school that have been fueled by nasty arguments occurring through social media off school hours and out of school. 
Our school will certainly and sincerely address this growing concern, but this is not a problem confined to the educational arena. This sad commentary is ultimately a reflection on our society and we must all contribute to a solution.
Finally, I can't help but see the irony in the fact that well intended bills like DASA are often crafted by some politicians who themselves fall short of setting constructive examples of civility, courtesy, tolerance, and respect. I suspect the upcoming presidential campaign will unfortunately serve as an illustration of this dilemma in action.

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