New York Gov. David Paterson (D) signed into law on Wednesday legislation intended to alleviate bullying and harassment against LGBT people in public schools.
The legislation, known as the Dignity for All Students Act, includes protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. According to the New York Times, the law will require school districts to report instances of bullying to the State Education Department.
It’s the first state law in New York to provide explicit protections for transgender people.
In a statement, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, said Paterson’s signing of the bill is important because for many LGBT students “going to school is tantamount to a daily dose of torture.”
“We have repeatedly seen the tragic consequences of this pervasive problem: young people are left emotionally damaged, physically hurt, or feel they have no other option than to take their own lives out of hopelessness and despair,” she said. ”Youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender – or simply perceived to be – are often the targets of this abuse.”
Charles Robbins, executive director of the Trevor Project, an organization devoted to suicide prevention for LGBT youth, also applauded Paterson’s action.
“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,” Robbins said.
The new law makes New York one of more than 40 states with anti-bullying laws. Fourteen of these states and D.C. provide inclusive protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, according to the Trevor Project.