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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why did our students have to wait four years?

The Mayor and Chancellor made a big announcement yesterday about how they are implementing anti-bias and anti- harassment procedures in our schools, and requiring that these incidents be reported.

This announcement came primarily in response to several years of repeated and well-publicized incidents in which Sikh students have had their hair cut off in school -- and subsequent protests, including an rare oped on local educational issues that made it into the NY Times and a more recent column in the Daily News.

David Seifman of the NY Post was one of the few reporters yesterday to note that many of the procedures that Bloomberg and Klein announced were first proposed in 2004 in a law passed by the City Council called DASA -- the Dignity for All Students Act. But at that point, the Mayor and the Chancellor rejected them.

In a September 2004 interview on WRKS radio, the mayor was quoted as saying the council's bill was "silly." "You cannot [expect] the teachers or the principals to follow some script," he said back then. "They are professionals, and you have to leave it up to them to do it."

Even after the City council passed the law over the Mayor's veto, the Department of Education refused to comply with it -- arguing that their policies are not subject to city law.

"That's the job of the chancellor," Bloomberg said yesterday. "We never disagreed with them on the intent."

So why did it take them four years? Four years of unchecked bias and harassment in our schools? And why should it be considered okay for the Mayor and the Chancellor to consider themselves immune from obeying city law?

This is a perfect example of why we need more checks and balances. Not only is it more democratic, but it makes for better policies.

For more on the Mayor's previous position on bias-related violence and harassment in our schools, see our blog posting here.

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