For years now, Minnesota lawmakers have haggled over whether the state needs a bullying law.
But after Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Safe and Supportive Schools Act into law Wednesday, the focus turned to how schools will begin implementing the new law.
Overseeing much of that task will be the Minnesota Department of Education. The department already has several bullying prevention initiatives, but the new law definitely increases its workload.
But that appears to be more than okay with Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius who hailed the bill's passage.
"All of our students deserve safe and supportive places where they can learn, thrive and succeed," she said. "With Governor Dayton’s signature, Minnesota will no longer have one of the weakest anti-bullying laws in the nation, but instead will have a law that states clearly that Minnesotans are united in putting our students’ safety first.”
Much of the department's new responsibilities center around the creation of School Safety Technical Assistance Center which will help schools with bullying prevention work. Also, it must develop a state policy model for districts to adopt if they don't come up with their own.
Here are some of the department other new tasks as a result of the new bullying law.
- Will hire staff to provide technical assistance regarding the policy, creating safe and supportive environments to reduce the amount of bullying, and to use formative and restorative discipline to hold students accountable and make amends for harm they have caused.
- Develop webinars for school staff and administration regarding effective prevention and intervention practices.
- Assist a district or school in helping students understand social media and cyberbullying.
- Provide technical assistance through the Regional Centers of Excellence situated around the state, and making the state better able to respond to schools and parents with calls and concerns.
- Help districts to review and assess their data regarding school climate, bullying incidents and the effectiveness of interventions.
- Work with the School Safety Center at Department of Public Safety to coordinate programming for all schools on crisis response as well as prevention.