Antibullying bill raises troubling questions

  • Article by: KATHERINE KERSTEN
  • Updated: February 26, 2014 - 6:30 PM

This top-down, statewide measure stems from political correctness — not protection.

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“Antibullying” legislation is a top priority for DFL leaders at the Capitol this year. In the last session, their bill got hung up in the Senate, and they appear determined to muscle it through this time around.

Bullying is wrong. No child should have to put up with it.

But a glance at the bill raises troubling questions. Why doesn’t it protect all children equally, instead of singling out for favored treatment children of “protected classes,” such as race, sexual orientation, and “gender identity and expression”? Why are traditional victims of bullying, like kids who are timid or viewed as nerds, invisible in this bill?

Why does the bill give the Minnesota Department of Education power to reduce or withhold state aid to districts it views as failing to create a sufficiently “positive school climate” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and for those with “gender identity and expression” issues?

Why is it likely that — under the umbrella of bullying prevention — you may soon find that your daughter is studying LGBT demographic trends and famous scientists’ sexual orientation and that your son can join the girls’ basketball team if his “gender identity” inclines him that way?

Here’s the answer: The bill — misleadingly named the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” — is not primarily about preventing bullying. It’s driven instead by a political/cultural agenda that’s not so much about stopping bad behavior as it is about using the machinery of state education to compel children to adopt politically correct attitudes on human sexuality and alternative family structures.

The primary engine behind the “Safe Schools” bill is OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group. OutFront’s legal director was a member of Gov. Mark Dayton’s 2012 Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying, which gave rise to this bill, and its leadership directs the “Safe Schools for All Coalition.”

The bill would throw out Minnesota’s current “local control” antibullying law and replace it with a sweeping new statewide antibullying regime administered from St. Paul.

Advocates maintain that since our state’s current law is only 37 words long, it cannot offer kids real protection. They neglect to point out that the great majority of Minnesota school districts has adopted the Minnesota School Boards Association’s six-page model antibullying policy, which — while protecting children and including a detailed definition of bullying — gives districts the flexibility they need to address local problems with local resources.

The new bill would impose a comprehensive, statewide, mandatory “antibullying” policy on school districts as different as Hinckley and Minneapolis. The bill includes a vague and expansive new definition of bullying, and it would compel schools to police “cyberbullying” — including comments a student writes on his Facebook page in his pajamas at midnight.

Astonishingly, the bill does not require parental notification for either students who have been bullied or those accused of bullying.

The bill would give vocal special-interest groups access to Minnesota K-12 classrooms under the banner of creating safe, supportive school environments. It would require districts to consult with unnamed “community organizations” in adopting and implementing bullying-prevention policies. We can expect OutFront and similar organizations to play a central role.

Under the bill, schools could lose their state aid if the Education Department judges that they discriminate against LGBT students or those with gender-identity issues by not providing a sufficiently “positive school climate.” Faced with this threat, schools are likely to follow OutFront’s recommendation and turn for help to organizations like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) — which describes itself as “the leading national organization fighting to end anti-gay bias in K-12 schools.”

GLSEN maintains that “safe” schools require LGBT-“affirming” curricula. “LGBT people, history and events can be easily inserted into most content areas,” it maintains.

In a safe school, for example, science teachers “acknowledge the gay identity of Francis Bacon (creator of the scientific method)” and art teachers identify the artist Frida Kahlo as bisexual. In math class, students analyze “LGBT demographic trends” — for example, creating charts illustrating the “number of same-sex couples raising children, number of adopted or foster children in LGBT-headed households.”

In a safe school, students can “participate on sports teams according to their gender identity,” according to GLSEN.

GLSEN encourages schools to show a film titled “Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up,” which describes the many gender identities available to students. And it applauds Facebook’s recent “exciting” decision to offer “custom gender settings” beyond male and female: “You can now choose … from a list of 50 identities” the one/s that “suit you best” — such as “Genderqueer, Trans Male or Cis Female” and “boi,” “zie,” “femme” or “gurl.”

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