Recently, you may have seen the heartbreaking story of a 14-year-old boy from Buffalo who took his own life because of bullying. Tragedies like these are reminders that bullying is a serious problem that is threatening the well-being of our children.
Two years ago, Assemblywoman Titus sponsored the Dignity for All Students Act, establishing a statewide anti-harassment and discrimination policy at any public school or school-sponsored activity so that students are afforded an environment free of bullying, taunting or intimidation (Ch. 482 of 2010). This Act will take effect July 1, 2012, and also includes guidelines for educational training programs for school personnel to raise awareness and enable employees to prevent and respond to discrimination or harassment.
New York State offers comprehensive information on bullying and what we can do to prevent it. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has an online cyber-bullying guide for parents, teachers and children. Since youths are online more and more every day, cyber-bullying is a major issue. Through use of social networking sites, bullying can occur anonymously and continuously. The DCJS website, www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us, contains a number of preventive measures and lists other organizations that can provide help. Additionally, the Department of Health and the New York State Police have a wealth of information on their websites: www.health.ny.gov and www.troopers.ny.gov.
Nationwide, there has been significant movement on this issue. Federally, the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and four others are now part of a task force on bullying. In August 2010, the task force staged the first-ever National Bullying Summit with over 150 state, local, civic and corporate leaders to create a national plan to end bullying. They also launched a website, www.stopbullying.gov, which provides information from various government agencies on how kids, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.
The Governor signed into law the Assembly’s landmark Autism bill which Assemblywoman Titus supported that will help New York families faced with the challenge of caring for a child diagnosed with autism.
Children with autism require special medical care and attention. These requirements can be very expensive and often place financial burdens on families. This new law will require insurance companies to cover the costs relating to the screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (A.6305-A). The Assemblywoman believes that this will have a positive effect on the level of care we provide young people diagnosed with this disorder.
Under this new law, children who have autism may be diagnosed earlier, and thus be able to begin treatment at an earlier age. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the number of children currently facing autism in the country is 1 in 110. These numbers make autism one of the most common disorders affecting children today, so the importance of this legislation cannot be overstated.
Now that this has become law, New York joins 23 other states in requiring coverage for conditions relating to autism spectrum disorder. It is essential that we make sure those diagnosed with autism get the help they need at a young age to improve their quality of life and now with this law, this is possible.