Archived Story

Anti-bullying advocates welcoming recommendations

Published 10:20am Tuesday, August 7, 2012

AUSTIN — Austin educators and anti-bullying advocates are welcoming recommendations by a statewide task force to decrease the effect bullying has in the classroom and in life.

Minnesota’s Prevention of Bullying Task Force recommended several messages to Gov. Mark Dayton’s office last Wednesday which the group says should be considered and enacted as soon as possible. Among the recommendations are doing away with the state’s current statute concerning bullying — only 37 words long and considered the weakest anti-bullying law in the country — and creating new definitions and policies for bullying, harassment, and intimidation.

In addition, the task force recommended a data report system to track bullying instances in schools, enhancing communication between schools, parents and communities, and creating a new School Climate Center within the Minnesota Department of Education to offer information and assistance on the strategies, techniques and programs that can remove conditions where bullying would take place.

Though the governor’s office has yet to reveal how Dayton will respond to the recommendations, school districts are already looking at the suggestions to see what could become state law.

“We are already in Austin Public Schools exceeding those expectations,” said Neveln Elementary School Principal Dewey Schara. “We’ve got policies and rules in place that specifically address bullying.”

Schara said the district, which has ramped up its anti-bullying efforts over the past two years, has exceeded the task force guidelines at almost every building.

Yet the recommendations, which could become law, have area anti-bullying advocates excited.

“To now really have all schools on the same page, it’s going to be fantastic,” said Danielle Borgerson-Nesvold, head of the Community Against Bullying. “It’s a positive future for changing the climate of bullying in schools.”

Borgerson-Nesvold said she’s heard from plenty of parents in other districts who say they don’t have the same sort of measures in their schools compared to Austin. She hopes the recommendations will mean more community involvement in anti-bullying efforts as well.

“It affects the entire community,” she said. “Schools can set something up, but parents, students and community members are going to need to be a part of it, to effect change.”