JOHNSTOWN - The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education recently adopted a new Dignity for All Students Act policy, similar to the state act that went into effect this summer.
The board Thursday passed the policy - effective Sept. 13 - by a total of six yes votes at Johnstown High School. Paul VanDenburgh and Brian Miller Sr. were absent. Board member Douglas Dougherty abstained, feeling the policy doesn't cover adults as well.
"I still don't believe it goes far enough," Dougherty said. "Is there dignity for all staff as well?"
Dougherty felt the policy should include language for all adults connected with the district, including how the Board of Education "reacts" to administrators.
"I think we all owe each other respect and it goes without saying," said board Vice President Jennifer Sponnoble.
According to the state Education Department website, the state passed the Dignity for All Students Act on Sept. 13, 2010. It took effect on July 1. It seeks to "provide the state's public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function," the website says.
The measure calls for awareness and sensitivity regarding people of different races, weight, national origin, ethnicity, religions, mental or physical abilities, sexes, sexual orientation, and gender identities or expressions.
Other local school districts also have updated their policies to reflect passage of the act.
The Johnstown policy passed Thursday says the Board of Education "recognizes that learning environments that are safe and supportive can increase student attendance and improve academic achievement. A student's ability to learn and achieve high academic standards, and a school's ability to educate students, is compromised by incidents of discrimination or harassment, including, but not limited to, bullying, taunting and intimidation."
The policy includes cyberbullying, even if it is not explicitly stated. The policy states at least one employee at every school will be designated as the "dignity act coordinator," who will be trained to handle human relations. Training also will be provided each school year for all district employees. If the district finds the policy was violated, corrective action will be taken.
Dougherty said there isn't necessarily a problem in Johnstown schools with adults being disrespected. But he said students see what adults do and again suggested the policy go a bit further.
"This isn't the board from before," said board member Mark Ward.
Ward said whatever happened in the past shouldn't be tied to the new board and district staff. He said the new Dignity for All Students Act policy embraces ideals that will overall "make it a positive district."
"I think this is a good starting point," Ward stated.
Sponnoble urged Dougherty to come forward if he sees any future problems involving dignity not being shown to adults in the district.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.