To the editor:
We thank our state representatives, Senator Gary Dahms and Representative Chris Swedzinski for taking the time to host the recent town hall meeting in Marshall.
I think I need to clarify the title of the bill I referred to at the meeting. The title of the bill is cited as the "Safe and Supportive Minnesota Act," House File 826, Senate File 783.
A similar bill titled "Safe Schools for All" was first introduced in the 2009 legislative session and subsequently was passed by a significant margin in both legislative bodies.
The House of Representatives passed it with a 95-39 vote and the Minnesota Senate by a 46-8 vote. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill. In 2012, the Governor established a Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying (Executive Order 12-01). The findings and recommendations of the Task Force can be found online under the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, then click on Bullying Prevention Task Force, and then Final Report to the Governor, 8-1-2012.
The "Safe and Supportive Minnesota Act" (HF 826), (SF 783) models many of the recommendations of the Governor's Task Force. It defines bullying, harassment, and intimidation. It enumerates protections for students most likely to be targets of bullying and harassment. It requires that policies include a procedure for handling prohibited conduct as well as training on bullying prevention and intervention for all staff and volunteers who work with students. It establishes a School Climate Center within the Department of Education
Presently, Minnesota has the shortest anti-bullying law in the country. "Each school board shall adopt a written policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student. The policy shall address intimidation and bullying in all forms, including, but not limited to, electronic forms and forms involving Internet use."Just 37 words in length, the existing law only requires local districts to enact a bullying prevention policy; it does not outline what those policies should include, except to include a mandate that the local policies also address online and cyber-bullying.
Minnesota is one of just three states to prohibit bullying without defining it. Researchers note a statewide definition is crucial, given the fact that bullying means different things to different people.
What can you as a local citizen do to support the passage of comprehensive anti-bullying legislation in Minnesota? Contact your legislators and express your support to strengthen Minnesota's anti-bullying law. As an organization or an individual you can join the Minnesota Safe Schools for All Coalition made of over 80 organizations. The Coalition believes that all students should be safe from bullying and harassment at school. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org