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The Telegram
  • Herkimer school board adopts ‘Dignity’ act

  • The Herkimer School Board of Education adopted the Dignity for All Students Act during its regular board meeting Wednesday night after some discussion on the new federal law.



    Interim Superintendent of Schools Gary Tutty presented the act during a public hearing Wednesday night. While no members of the public commented at the hearing, there was plenty of discussion about it among the board members.

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  • The Herkimer School Board of Education adopted the Dignity for All Students Act during its regular board meeting Wednesday night after some discussion on the new federal law.
    Interim Superintendent of Schools Gary Tutty presented the act during a public hearing Wednesday night. While no members of the public commented at the hearing, there was plenty of discussion about it among the board members.
    Tutty said the act was implemented by the state education commissioner, who adopted it from the federal regulations. Tutty explained that the act is primarily a “preventive, rather than a punitive measure” to ensure equality and respect for all students.
    Specifically, the act states that a student should not be discriminated against based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnicity, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex. It also states that no student should be in a situation where they feel their mental, emotional or physical well-being is threatened.  
    Tutty, and others on the board, stated that the act is much like the code of conduct the school district already had in place.
    “We don’t think there will be a change. We’re doing what we’re supposed to do now. It’s just a heightened awareness. To me, we’re doing what we need to,” said Tutty during a telephone interview on Thursday.
    At the board meeting, some members talked about the act.
    “I’m worried about the cone of silence, the frequency of harassment that is electronic. Are we supposed to be like the CIA? I just see this [act] making a lot of money for lawyers,” said board president John Cipriano.
    “The frustration I have is that it’s political correctness gone crazy,” Cipriano said. “When they hand it to you as a mandate it scares me. There’s a lot of gray area.”
    Cipriano pointed out part of the legislation that states “once a school knows or reasonably should know of possible student-on-student harassment, it must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.”
    “What is ‘reasonably should know?’ Who decides that? A court of law? A judge? A complainant?” he said.
    The two school officials who will be trained as Dignity Act coordinators will be both of the school building principals: Kathy Carney at Herkimer Elementary School and Terry Dangle at Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School. The Herkimer teaching staff will receive training on the first day of school on how to better identify the sort of bullying or discrimination that may be taking place.
    In other business, the board also adopted the school tax warrant for 2012-13. The total school levy is $5,945,048.58 and the total library levy is $89,950.83. This brings a total tax levy of $6,034,993.41. The school district is split into two towns: The town of Herkimer and the town of Little Falls. The school levy for the town of Herkimer is $5,735,526.92 and the library levy is $87,027.81. The school levy for Little Falls is $209,515.66 and the library levy is $2,923.02.
    Page 2 of 2 - The district also has 2,202 parcels receiving a STAR exemption, which totals $1,680,409.40, which is paid by the state. This is an increase of $18,961.40 total STAR exemption from 2011-12. The total of property taxes and STAR revenue is $7,625,451.98.
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