ALBANY -- A joint letter was sent to school districts on Friday by the attorney general and state education commissioner to encourage schools to remain as safe environments without fear of discrimination or harassment.
And amid reports of hate crimes across the state and nation after the presidential election. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday urged state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to hold training for staff and students to address any discriminatory behavior.
“It is imperative that schools review these laws and policies to make every staff member and student aware of their role in preventing discrimination and how to report such incidents,” Cuomo said in a letter to Elia.
New York is investigating a series of hate crimes, including ones in Wellsville in western New York and at SUNY Geneseo.
The cases, as well as reports of ones in New York City and elsewhere, prompted Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Elia to write to districts Friday, reminding them of state laws and regulations that guard against discrimination.
New York, for example, has a Dignity for All Students Act that requires school districts to address and report any basis or bullying based on race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We will not allow hateful rhetoric and acts of discrimination to follow students into the classroom, which must remain a place for our children to learn and grow in a positive and safe environment,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
In the letter, Schneiderman and Elia requested districts review their own policies and procedures.
“As state and educational leaders, it is our responsibility to foster an open dialogue with students and employees about discrimination, harassment and intimidation and send a strong message that these types of behaviors will not be tolerated in our schools,” Elia said in a statement.
Cuomo, meanwhile, said the Education Department should hold training sessions for students and staff after his office set up a hotline to report any hate crimes.
There was no immediate comment on whether the department will comply with Cuomo's request.
The state's toll-free hotline to report a hate crime is 888-392-3644. It is run by the Division of Human Rights from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
To report a crime or a fear for safety, New Yorkers can also call 911.