Audit: Schools Still Adjusting To ‘Bullying’ Act

Seventeen out of 20 schools audited by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli were found to be struggling when reporting bullying in school.

Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) was passed in New York state in 2012 with the intention to protect students from bullying and to give students freedom from discrimination. The report from the Comptroller’s Office stated that after four years there are schools still struggling to accommodate this act.

DiNapoli’s audit found some schools to be underreporting incidents with one school failing to report an incident where police were involved.

“This Dignity for All Students Act was created to protect students but four years later, many schools remain unsure of what to do and make serious errors in reporting incidents of harassment and bullying,” DiNapoli said in a news release.

Bret Apthorpe, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools was surprised that seventeen out of the 20 schools that were examined were found to be struggling.

“I think really what (DiNapoli) was commenting on is that the specificty of the DASA reporting requirements was not being adhered to by (those schools),”

Apothorpe described what schools call “Student Management Systems” that teachers use to take attendance and report discipline.

Apthorpe said that after DASA was ratified, Jamestown Public Schools had to update its systems of reporting to include more specific details for bullying incidents. He said that other schools might be lagging behind in this department because their systems haven’t been updated yet to meet the requirements of DASA.

According to the state audit, 163 discrimination and harassment incidents were reported in Chautauqua County in 2016-16. The number of cyberbulling incidents reported in that same timeframe was 37.

“We report (bullying) and we monitor it,” Apthorpe said. “We make sure that our student management system reports the disciplinary requirements of the DASA act and in the DASA act is the requirement for bullying and such.”

Apthorpe and Jamestown Public Schools were questioned heavily about their policies on bullying at a recent board meeting. He said faculty at Jamestown have been using their systems properly.

The school district has recently updated their websites to include an application for students to report acts of bullying anonymously.

During a recent board meeting, Apthorpe called this new system a “baby step” to address a much larger issue that still demands much attention.

Fifteen school districts in Chautauqua County did not report a DASA incident, including cyberbullying, from 2013 through the 2015-16 school years. No school districts scrutinized in the audit were named in the 27-page report.