Holding up a children's book that ends with two men getting married, several parents of students at a public school with an anti-bullying program weighed in Monday on proposed state anti-bullying legislation. They said the bill, designed to hold school districts more accountable on the issue, is less about inclusiveness and getting along than it is about promoting same-sex marriage and a pro-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender agenda.
In some cases, the parents said at a news conference at the State Capitol complex, their children have been bullied because they did not support the anti-bullying curriculum.
The proposed state legislation passed its last committee today and is headed for a floor vote. Its author, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, has said current state law, which provides a model policy for school boards to adopt, is vague and has led to inconsistent standards in dealing with the problem.
While the current law covers race, gender and religion, the bill would add other categories, including sexual orientation, national origin and disability. School boards would need to adopt a written policy to enact the language by Jan. 1. Several groups are backing the bill, including OutFront Minnesota, a GLBT advocacy organization, and Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union. But others, such as the Minnesota Family Council, say current anti-bullying statutes are sufficient.
"Any time you elevate particular groups or statuses, it's problematic," said Tom Prichard, head of the council. "I think you keep a general policy across the board, verbal or behavioral, whether it's a gay student who clearly is picked on or beat up or someone who is overweight or for their political persuasion."
Three parents with children at Minneapolis' Hale Elementary School spoke about a program called "Welcoming Schools," which they said is not being used to educate against bullying but to promote same-sex marriage and a pro-gay agenda. The Family Council said the program is an example of how anti-bullying legislation can morph into social engineering.
Parent Lesley Chaudhry said that, as a Muslim, she felt uncomfortable with the content after learning of the program but was chastised by school officials at a parent meeting and her home was hit with graffiti and her children called racial epithets.
Jessi Tebben, coordinator of Out4Good, the Minneapolis public schools' gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender program, said "Welcoming Schools" focuses on gender issues as a supplement to broader anti-bullying campaigns and is not intended as an indoctrination campaign. The specific program is limited to six lessons.
Tebben said the current legislative proposal is valuable because it specifically enables school districts to protect those specified classes more easily, and schools, while mindful of the concerns of some parents, must work to include everyone.
Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636