Bully bulwark won’t solve issue

Published 8:48 am Monday, February 17, 2014

As both a teacher and citizen, I find myself very concerned about a bill that is currently working its way through our Minnesota legislative bodies. It’s a new anti-bullying law for our schools. Our current representative, Shannon Savick, voted to support HF 826, the House version of this bill, which passed last spring by a completely partisan 56 percent Democrat vote. It was then sent on to the Senate. This bill will eventually come before both legislative bodies again this session for final approval.

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will enact a law to mandate the creation of a whole new agency within the Minnesota Department of Education called the “Climate Center.” (Really, do we need to spend more — an estimated $1 million dollars per year — of our education dollars on bigger bureaucracy instead of on our students where it should be spent?) This law will remove control from our local schools on how to best manage the behavior of our students in the classroom. It will impose new unfunded financial and paperwork burdens on schools, including mandatory training at least every three years for all school personnel and volunteers.

Can you imagine what this will do to our school volunteer programs?

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As parents, you will have no recourse as to the decisions that are made concerning your child — whether you agree with them or not. It’s not even required that a parent be notified. It’s out of your hands, out of the school’s hands and into the hands of the bureaucrats in St. Paul.

One of the most concerning sections of this law to me is its definition of bullying. According to the bill, bullying can be interpreted as something actual or perceived on any issue — race, socioeconomic, gender, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and more. This also includes any perception of being bullied found on a webpage or Internet social media created inside or outside of school. The potential impact on free speech is frightening.

I am definitely all for safeguarding our students from bullying. We clearly need to protect our children from bullying. We need to teach our children how to treat all people with respect, as well as how to stand up to bullies. However, when I say “we,” I mean us — you and me — parents, families and our local schools. Minnesota already has an anti-bullying law for schools that is very appropriate. It puts control of a school district’s bullying policy into the hands of the very people who know their children best — parents, families, teachers, administrators and locally elected school board officials.

I stand on the principle that more local control and a smaller, more efficient government is healthier for our state and nation. This new anti-bullying law would work the exact opposite, taking control out of the hands of our families and schools and giving it to state bureaucrats. I urge you to contact your state senator and representative today and express your thoughts on this anti-bullying bill.


Peggy Bennett

Republican candidate

House District 27A

Albert Lea