NYS Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz called yesterday’s New York State Board of Regents vote exempting Yeshivas and parochial schools from the provisions of the Dignity for All Students Act that require them to include situations contrary to their religious beliefs in lessons when teaching about tolerance, an important protection of our constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.
The Dignity for All Students Act (article 2 of section 801[a] of New York State’s Education Law), which was signed into law in September 2010, but takes effect next July 1st, requires all New York State schools to provide instruction in civility, citizenship and character education by expanding the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity to include an awareness and sensitivity in the relations of people, including but not limited to different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identity or expression and sexes. Age appropriate lessons must begin in the earliest grades and continue through high school.
Yeshivas and parochial schools were never supposed to be included in the Dignity for All Students Act. Last year, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz cosponsored legislation to clear up the misinterpretation which passed the Assembly; exempting yeshivas and parochial schools. The State Senate refused to introduce the companion bill. Realizing the negative affect that this act could have on yeshivas and parochial schools, and faced with the fast approaching July 2012 implementation of the Act, the Assembly went directly to the Board of Regents to work out a solution. Yesterday’s vote was the culmination of those efforts.
“I want to thank the Regents and Chancellor Tisch for taking this action to make sure that Yeshivas and parochial schools, throughout New York State, are not forced to teach material that is inconsistent with their faith’s beliefs. It is unfortunate that because of the State Senate’s inaction we were unable to accomplish our goals legislatively, but because of yesterday’s Board of Regents vote yeshivas and parochial schools will be exempted from any provisions of the Dignity for All Students Act to which they have either a religious or moral objection,” Cymbrowitz explained. “I also appreciate Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s assistance in achieving a resolution to this important community concern.”
“I know that parents choose to send their children to either yeshivas or parochial schools because they know that the curriculum will be consistent with their religious beliefs. This is important on both a personal and constitutional level. Parents may now feel secure that because of the Board of Regents’ vote, their children will not be subjected to lessons that are inconsistent with their religious doctrines,” Cymbrowitz stated.
(YWN Desk – NYC)