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The Battle Against the Bullying Bill of 2014

Here is a summary of Minnesota’s Battle Against the Bullying Bill of 2014.

Tragically, Governor Dayton and the Democrats in the Minnesota legislature shoved through their heatedly contested and deeply controversial Bullying Bill before the 2014 session ended last May. But the forceful, potent battle that was waged here in Minnesota against HF826 provides us with all the lessons we need moving forward.

They passed the Bullying Bill, HF826, with not a single Republican vote, and, along the way, they lost even the support of three of their own DFL colleagues both in the House and in the Senate.

They lost their momentum from 2013 when it passed the House with little public notice and not a single Democrat defection. At that moment, HF826 was primed to pass the Senate in 2014. It was trumpeted as the first bill out of the chute, with little opposition, no public outrage, likely even to pull in some Republican votes to provide a bipartisan fig leaf. [continue reading]

Radical Group Claims Victory on Bullying Bill

Reprinted from our May 1, 2014 email.

The day after Governor Dayton signed Minnesota’s Bullying Bill, HF826, the Gay Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) stepped forward to take credit for their victory. GLSEN had been discreetly low profile in Minnesota’s public battle to pass HF826, letting OutFront Minnesota do their front work.

During the House floor debate on April 8th, Rep. Peggy Scott warned members in the House that GLSEN was behind this legislation, but the Democrats vehemently denied it. Rep. Davnie, author of the Bullying Bill, denied numerous times that any harmful and explicit curriculum would be introduced into schools through this new law.

Yet GLSEN blasted an email out across the country with the following statement (emphasis added):

  • Minnesota is now the 16th state plus Washington, DC to enact an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law.
  • GLSEN is working hard in the remaining states that do not protect LGBT students from bullying to ensure that ALL students are protected under law. Like we did in Minnesota, we’re forming statewide coalitions, mobilizing support from corporate and legislative partners, and most of all working with friends like you to make sure legislators know their constituents support efforts that protect all students.

They like to talk about all students, but it’s obvious all students are not what interests them. Theirs is an LGBT victory, not an all student victory. But GLSEN stands to gain the most from the Minnesota Bullying Bill, since they seem to be writing the lesson plans. GLSEN portrays itself as a leader in safe schools initiatives, curriculum and teacher training. Their materials are already used in some Minnesota schools. [continue reading]

Legislative Bullying

by Katherine Kersten (May 2014)

Who—in sensitive, civilized America in 2014—could possibly be in favor of bullying? Every decent adult wants students to treat each other with courtesy and respect. So who could oppose attempts to strengthen anti-bullying laws to shield children from the hurtful schoolyard taunts so many of us remember?

But what if the anti-bullying project is hijacked by zealous special-interest groups with little concern for protecting kids who are overweight, shy, or viewed as nerds—the traditional victims of bullying? What if state policy-makers use anti-bullying programs to pry open the doors of religious schools and compel them to teach ideas directly at odds with the tenets of their faith?

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[wptab name=’What People Are Saying’]Richardson not convinced anti-bullying bill is necessary

The anti-bullying bill is not getting an enthusiastic thumbs up from Northfield School Superintendent Chris Richardson. After a 5 hour debate last night, the bill authored by Senator Dibble, jumped some hurdles but still, Richardson is not convinced it’s necessary. He says every school has a policy that’s 4 to 5 pages long. They include definitions and what actions will be taken as well as how the investigation will be conducted. The amendments Dibble has included in the bill are taken from many of these school policies that are already in place. Richardson wants to know who will take action. The State? Will the schools have to do all the reporting so the state has a database? School districts are concerned about the amount of staff time and cost will be involved. Richardson says keep it local. He wonders if the State is creating a solution to a problem already being addressed at the local level. Richardson says the bill just adds another layer of bureaucracy. He believes some version will likely pass but he’s hoping that there will be an appropriate level of reporting that won’t cost cumbersome hours of staff time. Richardson’s interview is posted online here.2

Hinckley-Finlayson Superintendent Rob Prater said: “With the bill’s definition, bullying can be anytime anything makes someone feel bad.1 The Minnesota Catholic Conference’s 2013-14 legislative platform says, “Combating bullying should never be a pretext to impose an agenda of groups of people, or to undermine the rights of parents to bestow their religious or moral values on their children.1The state cannot simply legislate bullying out of schools,” said East Central School Superintendent Andrew Almos. “I would like to see the legislation be less prescriptive and allow school staff to focus on working with kids to improve the culture and climate in our schools. Initiatives are well underway in our local communities.1My frustrations with this effort are focused mainly on the perception that schools do very little to prevent acts of bullying and hazing. This is simply not true. Schools day in and day out work to provide safe and supportive schools,” Almos said.1 State Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) estimates the bill will cost $51 million over its first two years. “This is a classic example of well-intentioned politicians in St. Paul not realizing the far-reaching implications of the bill that they passed and a case where they believe local officials can’t handle certain issues,” Hall said.1How much will this cost and who will pay for it? It is hard to know what this means exactly or how it will ultimately be implemented. In general, I believe that this is the wrong approach,” said Pine City Schools Superintendent Wayne Gilman.1This file seems punitive in nature and creates additional and unnecessary cost and labor for everyone,” Gilman said. “Matters of cyberbullying are not likely to be fixed by anything in this file since cyber bullying can happen primarily outside school. This appears to be yet another unfunded mandate from the State.1 The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act is the “worst policy I have ever seen in my time here,” said state Rep. and Education Committee minority leader Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton).1 1MN Bill Could Make Bullying ‘Anything, Any Time’ by T.A. LeBrun 2 [/wptab] [wptab name=’Letters’]New letters coming soon.[/wptab][wptab name=’Candidates’]Check back for resources.[/wptab][end_wptabset]

Clarification of Parental Notification in HF826 Bullying Bill advocates are telling critics of HF826 that the bill has been changed regarding parental notification. They are saying that the latest versions of the bill now do require that parents be notified in cases of bullying incidents. This is false. Changes in the language of the bill accomplish nothing different from earlier versions. Under the latest HF826 language parents will be notified at the school administrator’s discretion and consistent with existing data practices law. Current data practices law states that the responsible authority shall withhold data from parents or guardians only upon the request of the student. In other words, HF826 expands a current bad student privacy law that allows minors to opt out of having their parents notified by also allowing school officials to opt out of calling parents. The bottom line is that there is no requirement for parents to be notified at all, even in the case where a child will be receiving discipline, re-education, psychological counseling, or mental health treatment.