The New State Dignity for All Students Act, otherwise known simply as the Dignity Act, became effective July 1 of this year.
The act was established with the broad legislative intent to provide a school environment free of discrimination and harassment. Its goal is to create a safe and supportive school climate where students can learn and focus, rather than be discriminated against either verbally or physically.
The Dignity Act says that all public elementary and secondary school students have the right to attend school in a welcoming, considerate and caring environment. The act not only applies to behaviors in school buildings, but also school property such as athletic fields, playgrounds, parking lots and at school-sponsored events.
The Dignity Act prohibits the harassment and discrimination of students by students and by school personnel. It states that no student shall be subject to harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.
To demonstrate what the Dignity Act means for students, Rachel’s Challenge was brought to the Fulton Junior High School Thursday for three presentations.
The program explained with a real life example how discrimination and prejudice can have serious consequences.
Rachel Joy Scott was the first person killed during the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. Her father, Darrell Scott, began to speak publicly about the need for the country to be kinder and more compassionate.
Scott used his daughter’s writings and drawings to illustrate this message, calling it “Rachel’s Challenge.”
The challenge seeks to motivate, educate and bring positive change to young people by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion, and creating a positive culture of change in the school and community.
The challenge asks people to follow five guiding principals: choose positive influences, be kind to others, practice positive gossip, show appreciation to those you love, and forgive yourself and others.
The Fulton Junior High School has chosen to participate in the challenge. It started by having students sign a banner during their lunch bell. The school will also be starting a Friends of Rachel Club, open to all students, which met Thursday for the first time.