A state audit found that many public schools in New York State are not properly reporting incidents of bullying or harassment as required by the Dignity for All Students Act.
The audit, released Friday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, examined public schools’ compliance with DASA. The law, which went into effect in 2012, aims to protect students from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying.
“The 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.
The audit found that, despite guidance from the State Education Department, many schools had not implemented some critical requirements, such as making sure contact information is accessible throughout the school.
Several public schools lacked training and others made errors in reporting incidents to the state as required by law. An analysis of state education department data of 2,153 schools found that more than 30 percent did not report any incidents from 2013 to 2016.
In addition, auditors examined a sample of 20 middle and high schools in New York State, including Freeport High School — one of 10 schools with an enrollment of more than 1,000 students that reported zero incidents for 2013-14 and 2014-15. Freeport has more than 2,200 students, according to state records.
Freeport Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said in a statement Friday that the district had reported its DASA incidents under another state category that catalogs violent and disruptive incidents.
Kuncham said that was “due to the similarity of the reporting criteria.” For the 2016-17 school year, all DASA data was reported under the appropriate category, he said.
DiNapoli attributed the problems statewide to school personnel’s lack of knowledge, experience, and training in identifying, documenting, investigating, and reporting DASA incidents.
The report, which also found that the state Department of Education had issued adequate guidance on DASA, recommended that the department identify weaknesses in implementation, assign adequate resources to promote compliance, provide training, and remind schools of reporting requirements.
Last year, the New York State Board of Regents approved new regulations to simplify school incident reporting and better identify student safety issues.
In a statement Friday, education department spokesman Jonathan Burman said, “The comptroller’s audit found the department has provided effective oversight of DASA’s implementation and has taken important steps to support compliance with the law. The department agrees with the audit’s recommendations to improve districts’ understanding and implementation of the law, and we have already begun to take some of the recommended actions.”