Gov. Mark Dayton received a report from his school bullying task force and heartily endorsed its first recommendation -- that the state enact stronger anti-bullying policy for all school districts.
Dayton said Minnesota needs to replace its current "weak bullying law" with a statute that clearly defines what bullying is, requires school districts to respond and focuses on improving students' behavior. "Minnesota is better than this," he said, and the state must supply additional money, if needed, to help districts improve.
The governor met Wednesday with a task force he appointed in February. Their report, released two weeks ago, calls for a stronger state law, anti-bullying education for educators and students, disciplinary actions against bullies and funding to help districts deal with the problem.
Dayton praised the task force, co-chaired by Julie Hertzog of PACER's bullying prevention program, and Walter Roberts, professor of counselor education at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Dayton said he would like to see "a person in every school district" to whom parents could go to discuss bullying issues. "That's the place to call," he said. He noted that the number of school counselors has declined due to flat state funding.
The task force report calls for a state law that defines bullying, harassment and intimidation, clarifies prohibited behavior, enumerates groups that have "historically been target of bullying" and requires districts to develop anti-bullying policies. Concern that little data exists on the problem, the task force said districts should report bullying incidents to the state, as well as actions taken in response.
Dayton said he hoped to have new legislation ready for the 2013 session in January.
Copy of Task Force report: