According to a new report released today by the Sikh Coalition, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York City Department of Education is providing teachers insufficient resources and training to protect students from bullying and bias-based harassment.
“We have long known that too many students suffer from bullying in their schools because of their race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” said Amardeep Singh, director of programs at the Sikh Coalition. “Today’s report tells us why: Few teachers know that they have an obligation to protect students from bias-based bullying. The Department of Education must invest resources into ending this dynamic. Otherwise the city’s good intentions to combat bullying are merely good intentions lacking substance.”
The report, Bullying in New York City Schools: Educators Speak Out, summarizes the results of a survey conducted during the 2009-2010 school year of 198 city teachers and school staff representing 117 public schools in four boroughs. It assesses the Department of Education’s (DOE) progress in enforcing Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, which was issued in September 2008 to address student-to-student bullying and bias-based harassment. The report also assesses the effectiveness of the DOE’s “Respect for All” program, a diversity training initiative launched in 2007 primarily to combat homophobia in city schools that was expanded last year.
“Any staff training on harassment that my school did last year was conducted in a lackadaisical, perfunctory manner,” said Pat Compton, a former teacher at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn who retired at the end of the 2009-10 school year. “While some information on harassment and bullying is presented as a single item at the staff conference at the start of the school year, it is always done very briefly, as a single point on the agenda. Not much has changed since the Chancellor’s Regulation was passed.”
The vast majority of respondents reported that their schools have inconsistent procedures for responding to reports of bullying, leave it up to individual teachers to respond, or ignore incidents entirely.
“Given the lack of consistent procedures to implement the Chancellor’s Regulation, it is critical that the DOE provide stronger guidance and more resources to ensure safe learning environments for our city’s 1.1 million students,” said AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Only 14 percent of respondents teachers and staff surveyed said they believe that the Chancellor’s Regulation and the Respect for All program are “effective” or “very effective” in addressing bullying and bigotry in their schools.
- Although the DOE’s two-day Respect for All training is available to all k-12 teachers, only about 30 percent of respondents said teachers at their school were even offered training.
- Only about 31 percent of respondents said students in their schools received diversity or Respect for All training.
Respondents who were offered Respect for All trainings reported a lack of specific training on how to respond to bias incidents. Teachers also expressed concerns that they would be unable to make use of the training because of a lack of commitment from administrators.
“While the Chancellor’s Regulation is a good beginning, it only becomes meaningful if it’s fully enforced,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Teachers must have the training and support they need to take on the challenge of protecting students from bullying and creating a safe learning environment for all.”
In June 2004, the City Council passed the Dignity in All Schools Act, legislation that prohibits harassment and discrimination in the schools; requires regular anti-harassment training for staff and teachers; and requires regular reporting and tracking of incidents of bullying and harassment. Mayor Bloomberg and the DOE refused to enforce this law.
Four years later, following a pair of high-profile attacks against Sikh students in the city schools, the DOE issued Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, a step toward addressing bias-based harassment and bullying.
In June 2009, the Sikh Coalition, the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, and AALDEF released a survey of more than 1,000 students and educators in city public schools that showed a wide gap in the regulation’s promise and the reality of student experiences. The survey found that many students didn’t know how to report bullying incidents; schools were failing to implement the regulation’s harassment-prevention measures; and educators were failing to investigate reports of bullying.
In response to these findings, the DOE and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in October 2009 announced several important expansions to anti-bullying measures in city schools. Among the improvements, DOE made two-day Respect for All teacher trainings mandatory for two staff members in every public school. Unfortunately, the latest survey results cast doubt on the success of these measures.
The report makes the following recommendations to the DOE:
- Fully implement Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, and allocate resources for its use.
- Follow state law. Expand Chancellor’s Regulation A-832 so it is in compliance with the recently enacted New York State Dignity for All Students Act by prohibiting staff-to-student bullying and expanding public reporting requirements.
- Expand student and staff training to maintain the DOE’s standing as a statewide leader in fighting bias-based harassment.