A hotly contested bill to crack down on bullying in schools across the state will become law this afternoon following an 11-hour debate in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The Safe and Supportive Schools Minnesota Act cleared the House 69-63 shortly after midnight Wednesday following a debate where one opposing lawmaker compared the bill to George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” about government surveillance. The drawn-out debate filled with hypotheticals also included references to Hitler, Xbox video game systems and spanking.
A Senate version of the bill authored by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, passed 36-31 Thursday after five-hour debate. Gov. Mark Dayton will sign the bill into law at 4 p.m.
Strengthening Minnesota’s antibullying law—considered one of the weakest in the nation--has been a decade-long goal of gay rights activists and others concerned about bullying that affects a broad spectrum of students perceived as different. But the pushback from opponents has been strong, saying it forces schools to give up local control and gives preference to certain groups of students.
Under the bill, every school district would be expected to develop and enforce plans to reduce bullying and would have to make regular progress reports to the state. The state itself would be required to develop a model plan.
“Frankly, we’d rather that school districts engage their community and create new policy to limit bullying that we know is happening, rather than use the state model policy that will be created with t eh passage of this bill.” said the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a statement.
The bill also creates a School Safety Technical Assistance Council and Center which will provide services and planning for schools and communities as they implement anti-bullying policies.