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Bipartisan Anti-bullying Legislation Derailed, Casualty of Electoral Politics

October 19, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota kids will have to wait longer for a law that more clearly defines protections against bullying. On Monday, State Senator Scott Dibble and State Representative Jim Davnie pulled anti-bullying legislation. A similar bill was passed with bipartisan support in 2009, but was vetoed by Governor Tim Pawlenty.

When it became clear that the Governor would push back on the legislation again during the special current session, they decided to table it until the 2011 regular session, says Davnie.

"He acknowledged that it's a real issue, but didn't think we should deal with it today. So rather than get tied up in gubernatorial politics, and make this a real political, partisan issue, we wanted to preserve it as a very child-centric, student-centric issue."

Minnesota already has an anti-bullying law, but advocates say it doesn't give parents or educators the tools they need. The proposed legislation would require Minnesota school districts to update anti-bullying policies to prohibit harassment, based on qualities defined by the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

These clear guidelines would make it easier for parents and educators to provide students more safeguards, says Davnie.

"They deserve to be protected when they go to school so that they've got a safe learning environment, and so the kid next to them has a safe learning environment."

Davnie says they took the opportunity of the special session that was called for flood relief, to draw attention to the level of bullying in schools, which parents, educators and advocates say is also a crisis that merits emergency measures.

"Across the country, people are seeing tragedies stemming from bullying. Here in Minnesota, the clearest example is the Anoka-Hennepin School District, that has had six suicides related to bullying, and over thirty other attempts by students, of suicide tied to bullying."

Davnie says he's confident the legislation will move forward during the 2011 session, and he wants to send the message to Minnesota kids that there are parents, educators and lawmakers who care about making the law happen.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN