The proposed anti- bullying law entitled The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act (HF 826, SF 783) was heard in the House Education Policy Committee on Thursday. The bill as drafted would take effect in 2014-15 and covers requirements for policies, professional development and reporting processes.
It directs the Commissioner to establish a model policy and a School Climate Center, and establishes a Minnesota Safe and Supportive Schools Council to determine data derived standards and evidenced based practices regarding bullying prevention.
School districts would need to include this topic in staff development, address this with students and parents, and establish a local parent advisory committee. Bullying prevention will become part of teacher licensure.
The bill goes into detail on investigation, consequences, reporting to parents, and publishing policies on bullying. It requires a reporting process to the MDE, and summary data of incidents and remediation will become part of Minnesota’s school performance report card in 2015-16.
At the heart of the proposed bill is the definition of bullying from the Governor’s Task Force. It reads: “Bullying mean[s] words, images, or actions transmitted between individuals or through technology that have the effect of materially interfering with students’ ability to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment.”
Testimony on the bill included heart wrenching stories from students who have been the victims of bullying. A few parents were brave enough to retell stories of loved ones committing suicide because of bullying. A few people testified against the bill because they believe it’s a heavy handed approach by state government and forces a “social-political agenda” on students.
School organizations testified to the fact that this bill will become law, but that changes were needed to make it workable for districts. Finding money to fund the staff development and school training efforts required by the bill is the next big question for this proposal. The bill has several more committee stops before it gets to the House floor.
Read the bill summary by House Research.