The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 17, 2014

Our View: Strengthen bullying law with common sense

Why it matters: Yes, the state's weak bullying law needs to be strengthened but there's no need to nitpick the details nor make it expensive

Bullying is wrong — period. It is not a “rite of passage” as some would like to characterize it. It generally is imposed on those who are weak or vulnerable. It does not make you tougher; it makes you more scared and can potentially turn you into a bully.

You would think common sense would prevail so that instances of bullying would not ever be tolerated no matter where but especially in our schools. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Part of the problem is the lack of training on how to recognize and then confront bullies. And then there are the taunts and gibes hidden in cyberspace such as on Facebook or texts.

Minnesota recognizes there is a weakness in an all-out effort to confront bullying. The first problem is in state policies. An MPR analysis found that although the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) has a policy template for school districts to use, it is voluntary and districts are inconsistent in their application.

A bill designed to strengthen Minnesota’s anti-bullying law— presently just 37 words long and arguably the weakest in the nation — is expected to be resurrected in the Legislature this year.

While the House passed a bill last session, the Senate didn’t vote on it which surprised some who thought the bill was on a fast track. After all, it has a DFL-sponsored bill and Democrats control both houses.

But as with many things the argument is in the details.

For instance, there is the definition of bullying. Harassment is included as a definition but the MSBA argues harassment can be one incident and bullying by definition is multiple incidents. Then there is the requirement that all school volunteers be trained the first year and every third year after that, which the MSBA says would be difficult to track. Other details include posting of bullying incidents and the length of time it should take to investigate.

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