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'Anti-Bullying' Bill Passes in Minn. State Senate

Updated: 04/03/2014 10:43 PM
Created: 04/03/2014 6:30 PM WDIO.com
By: Jennie Olson, KSTP

A controversial anti-bullying bill passed in the Senate on Thursday evening. The vote was 36-31.

The goal of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act is to protect all children from bullying and to make schools safer. But opponents say plans to strengthen it would be costly and difficult for schools to enforce.

Opponents are concerned about the bill’s “presumption” that a school will notify the parent of bullying incidents, unless "notifying the parent is not in the best interest of the student." The bill also specifically forbids bullying based on race, religion, physical appearance, sexual orientation, and several other categories, and some say it should be more generic. Other opponents also say the bill would strip school districts of their independence.

Supporters say these concerns are unfounded. They point to Minnesota's current bullying law -- one of the nation's weakest, and just 37 words long -- and say the bill would turn Minnesota's law into one of the strongest. They argue the bill provides a clear definition of bullying, training for students and staff, and specific procedures to follow when bullying occurs.

Education Minnesota President Denise Specht released the following statement Thursday in response to the state Senate passing the Safe and Supportive Schools Act:

"The Minnesota Senate took a huge step today to address bullying in our schools. The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will give educators the tools they need to better help their students. The bill includes guidelines for school staff to follow when bullying incidents are reported. And it includes money for training and resources for educators on bullying prevention and intervention.

Teachers know students do better when they are in class, focused and learning. They can’t do that if they’re afraid to come to school."

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