O’Donnell Introduces Weight-Based Discrimination to List

ALBANY—Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell is re-introducing the “Dignity for All Students Act” with an update: it will explicitly seek to protect students from discrimination based on their weight.

“There were a lot of people who said this is not dignity for all students, it’s just dignity for students on this list,” O’Donnell told me by phone, noting that he wrote objectors a letter explaining amendments to the measure. “Based on the debate last year on the floor, we felt we had addressed some that.”

The legislation would direct school districts to “develop procedures which create a school environment free of discrimination and harassment,” incorporate those policies into already-required character education and to publicly report violations on an annual basis. Its provisions are not limited to, but list real or perceived bias based on race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender and sex as grounds for determining discrimination and harassment.

The bill is expected to be considered by the codes committee this week. It has previously passed the Assembly several times.

Some Republicans have voted against it in the past, and the State Conservative Party opposes the bill on grounds of non-interference.

“No kid should be discriminated against, nobody in life should be discriminated against, but there are enough laws on the books and enough things on the books to be able to deal with this already,” said Conservative Party executive director Shaun Marie Levine.

O’Donnell, a self-described “person of size”  who is openly gay, said that there is a need for the bill.

“It should be a no-brainer,” he said. “Anybody who says, does government need to do this, I would say they ought to take a look at the news here.”

State Senator Tom Duane is sponsoring the bill in the State Senate.