Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Extending Anti-Discrimination Protections To Cover Public Schools

Legislation Provides Division of Human Rights Ability to Investigate Reports of Bullying, Harassment, or Other Forms of Discrimination at Public Schools

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Download PdfEducational Institutions: Your Rights Under the Human Rights Law as a Student or Applicant

July 25, 2019 

Governor Cuomo today signed legislation (S.4901/A.3425) extending the scope of the New York State Human Rights Law to cover public schools. The measure also provides the New York State Division of Human Rights the ability to investigate reports of bullying, harassment or other forms of discrimination at public schools. Extending anti-discrimination protections to public schools was included in the Governor's Executive Budget and was a key component of his Women's Agenda.

"Every student has the right to pursue an education free from bullying, harassment and discrimination," Governor Cuomo said. "By signing this bill into law, we are building on New York's legacy of equality and fairness and guaranteeing public school students get the protections they deserve."

"No individual, especially our young people, should face discrimination in New York," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "Schools should be a safe space where students go to learn and prepare for the future, and we will not tolerate bullying or harassment. This legislation will extend anti-discrimination protections to public schools across the state to ensure everyone has access to a high-quality education and an inclusive learning environment."

New York was the first state in the nation to enshrine its values of equality and fairness into statute as a Human Rights Law, affording every New Yorker "an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life" over seventy years ago. However, in a 2012 decision, the New York State Court of Appeals found that public schools were not covered education institutions under the Human Rights Law, and the State Division of Human Rights lost its ability to investigate reports of bullying, harassment, or other forms of discrimination by public school students. This decision was made even though the Division had asserted jurisdiction over public schools for nearly three decades and was forced to dismiss over 70 open complaints filed against public schools at the time. This legislation amends the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students and institutions from discrimination.

Division of Human Rights Commissioner Angela Fernandez said, "Restoring the Division's jurisdiction over public schools ensures that all students are protected against bullying and discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law. As New York continues to lead the way in establishing equal rights for all, the Division of Human Rights will vigorously enforce this restoration of the law."

Senator Shelley Mayer said, "New York State is taking an historic and necessary step ahead today as Governor Cuomo signs this bill. Now all New York public school students will be protected under our strong Human Rights laws against bullying, discrimination or harassment. I thank the Governor for extending these protections to all our students."

Assembly Member Erik Dilan said, "All students deserve protection against discrimination regardless of the type of institution they attend whether it be public or private. This legislation will ensure that all students are recognized as equals under the law, ensuring that New York State continues to be a safe-haven from the evils of discrimination."