Sen. Wiger: Anti-Bullying Legislation is Needed to Protect Our Kids
A column from Sen. Chuck Wiger of District 43.
In 2012, Governor Dayton formed a task force on the prevention of school bullying. Bullying was a problem before 2011, but the Governor’s task force shined a light toward an ongoing problem.
Back in 2009, I offered anti-bullying legislation, which passed the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Tim Pawlenty. This year, however, I’m optimistic we will pass legislation based on the task force’s recommendations from last August. Those recommendations, and the current bill, are a result of months of public testimony and deliberation.
They are designed to ensure a safe and supportive school environment for every student in Minnesota and to maximize their learning potential.
The task force recommended a complete overhaul of the limited policy against bullying by repealing current law and implementing new definitions, reporting, training and procedures on bullying. Furthermore, the task force cited an urgency to implement these new policies to provide for the health and safety of students.
Under current law, school districts are required to have a policy against bullying and a plan for dealing with it, but the laws don’t define bullying, and they don’t describe what the plan should be or explain who should be protected. We need a state model to ensure every student in Minnesota is protected.
A 2011 U.S. Department of Education survey found Minnesota to have the weakest laws in the country against bullying, harassment and intimidation, with only 37 words outlining the components of an anti-bullying policy. A 2010 study by the state departments of Education and Health found 13% of students reported being bullied once a week or more frequently. Current law requires school districts to have a policy against bullying but doesn’t specify prohibited conduct based on a wide range of characteristics. We need better guidance from the state.
With this bill, districts will be able to decide for themselves whether to adopt local policies against bullying that conform to the requirements under this legislation or to adopt the state model policy. It is important that every student across Minnesota be provided with an educational environment that is free from bullying, and the state should set that tone.
We must establish a safe school environment that is conducive for learning. If children are constantly threatened and bullied, they are not able to concentrate on learning.
It’s time to repeal these ineffective laws, and replace them with one clear, comprehensive law that protects all students from bullying and harassment at school.
Please contact my office with any questions, concerns and comments in anti-bullying legislation or any other topic. My phone number is 651-296-6820 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can stop by and visit me in my office. I’m located in room 205 in the Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55155.