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Know Your Rights
Source: Metro
Subject: TGNCIQ Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Protect the Children

this spring, a 12-year-old Brooklyn girl made
a devastating decision — she took her own life.

to news reports, Maria Herrera, a sixth grader at Public School 72, was the
subject of her classmates’ constant harassment. The little girl’s mother
complained to the school, teachers and the Department of Education more than 20
times. Even after Maria’s classmates cut off her hair, nothing was ever done to
protect her.

heartbreaking tale of a beautiful child’s life cut short and an anguished
family left to pick up the pieces serves as a painful reminder of the impact
harassment can have on a young life. Tragedies such as this are exactly why the
City Council passed the Dignity in All Schools Act** in 2004 — our officials
wanted to try to limit the kind of suffering that led to Maria’s death.

DASA was
supposed to establish strong antiharassment policies in school. The law as
written prohibits harassment, mandates training programs for school staff and
creates a complaint process mechanism. DASA requires the tracking of harassment
so that each time Maria’s mother made a complaint, a warning flag should have
gone up that there was a problem in the little girl’s school.

But there
were no warning flags. In fact, the DOE issued a statement saying there was no
record of any harassment at all. Why? Because for four years, Mayor Bloomberg
and schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein have completely disregarded their obligation
to enforce the law.

By flouting
DASA, the mayor and DOE have left our most at risk children open to pain and
anguish that prevents them from being successful students — and jeopardizes
their health and well being. School harassment is an urgent issue: Nationally,
65 percent of teens report that they have been harassed or assaulted during the
past year because of their appearance, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity,
race, disability, gender expression or religion.

It is
time for the mayor to act. Let’s learn from Maria’s tragic death. Every student
deserves to feel safe in school. Our children deserve the chance to reach their
full potential.

** Make
the Road New York
& GLOBE have participated in the DASA campaign.