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Does State Need New Anti-Bullying Law?

Legislature is considering proposed upgrade to vague state statutes.

Tuesday afternoon, Minnesota state senators and advocates gathered at the State Capitol to hear details of a proposed new anti-bullying law that would beef up the state's vague bullying laws

The bill, written by Southwest Minneapolis' Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-61) and Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-63A) would require the state Department of Education to track and publish bullying data alongside the academic data it already collects. The bill would also require individual districts to have anti-bullying policies that protect students based on disability and sexual orientation, among others—current law only covers bullying based on sex, race, and religion.

The bill includes religious and free speech protections and offers districts training resources to implement the law.

Anti-bullying advocates and teacher groups widely praised the bill in recent testimony before House and Senate committees. Social conservatives, including the Minnesota Family Council and testifiers at Tuesday's hearing, have come out in opposition to the bill, saying it could violate the free speech rights of religious groups and schools to disapprove of homosexuality. As Patch reported in 2011, the last time Dibble's anti-bullying bill was introduced, the Family Council has long been opposed to anti-bullying measures that explicitly protect LGBT students.

Should the state legislature pass the measure? Is this the right way to tackle bullying in Minnesota schools?

Dan Johnson March 20, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Fear of the unknown remains one of the best tools for those who want to continue harming gay people. Yet no one has been or will be arrested for expressing irrational prejudice as long as there is no violence or harassment of an individual. But we know from experience that bullying is very real and continues to cause needless suffering and even death. There is no excuse for it beyond a few mistranslated and misinterpreted bible verses used to justify ignoring the Golden Rule.
Dan Johnson March 20, 2013 at 03:38 PM
They oppose the inclusion of protections for LGBT people because they want to continue to demonize, dehumanize, and deny equal treatment to LGBT people. If children are taught to treat others as they would themselves, the justification for denial of equal legal rights and protections will fade away. That is their fear. They need the official governmental approval of their prejudice, to continue to impose it and teach it to others.
Dan Johnson March 20, 2013 at 03:41 PM
While bullying is not clearly universally defined, most agree it is a form of abuse, including verbal, emotional, and physical. It can be a single incident, or it can include repeated acts over time attempting to create or enforce one person's (or group's) power over another person (or group) , thus an "imbalance of power". Legal definitions have been created by some state and local governments, and those clearly require intentional harm to another person or group. It is not however, unintentionally saying something someone else finds offensive, nor is it only in the eyes of the beholder. Bullying is a real problem that results in real harm to real people.
Dan Johnson March 20, 2013 at 03:47 PM
The American Psychological Association recognizes that "Prejudice and discrimination have social and personal impact." "The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which lesbians and gay men are often subjected are significant mental health concerns. Sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination, and antigay violence are major sources of stress for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Although social support is crucial in coping with stress, antigay attitudes and discrimination may make it difficult for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to find such support."
Dan Johnson March 31, 2013 at 05:41 PM
The movie "bully" is now out on DVD. If anyone has any doubts about the deadly effects of bullying, you should watch this movie, including the extras. Prejudice and discrimination cause needless suffering and death. There is no excuse for it.

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