Partisan politics once again block anti-bullying legislation

State Senator Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, expressed disappointment that for the third time, an attempt to add strong anti-bullying language to Minnesota law was blocked by political rhetoric Thursday. Senator Dibble attempted to amend a K-12 education budget bill to include a provision protecting students in Minnesota schools.

“While we were debating and modifying the Senate’s education budget bill meant to steer our state’s schools for the next two-year period, this was an opportunity for Minnesota lawmakers to take strong action against the growing threat of bullying in our schools,” Sen. Dibble said. “This common-sense amendment would have added much-needed protection for children and their families, and sent a message that we are serious about taking care of Minnesota’s kids. Instead, the Republican majority, at the behest of extremist special interests, took the opportunity to reject the amendment and subsequently pass a bill that, in its entirety, fails Minnesota schools and students.”

Sen. Dibble led bipartisan efforts to include anti-bullying language in state law for the past two years. In 2009, former Governor Tim Pawlenty agreed to compromise language, and then vetoed the bill. In 2010, similarly misplaced political objections prevented the bill from progressing in the legislature. On Thursday, all but one Republican legislator voted the measure down, with all DFL Senators voting in favor.

Specifically, Sen. Dibble’s amendment would require Minnesota school districts to update anti-bullying policies to prohibit harassment based on qualities defined in the Minnesota Human Rights Act: Race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical characteristics, and association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

The policy would prohibit harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence in all forms, including electronically. In addition to being posted throughout the school, school employees would receive training on the stated policy.

“This was simple language intended to address a very complicated problem, uphold widely held Minnesota values, and give guidance and support to those teachers and faculty trying to address an extremely serious harm that affects our children every day,” Sen. Dibble said. “The fact that it was soundly rejected by the Republican majority is just more evidence of hard-line political beliefs standing in the way of good policy for the people of Minnesota.”

Senator Dibble and Representative Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced an anti-bullying bill to address this issue in February, but the bill still has not received a legislative hearing. The lawmakers will join the Safe Schools Coalition at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 6 in Room 125 of the State Capitol to discuss continued efforts to confront this growing concern.

For more information, please contact Sen. Dibble’s office at 651-296-4191.

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Senator Scott Dibble
Scott Dibble represents District 61, which includes portions of the city of Minneapolis in Hennepin County.

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