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“I support the stronger protections in the antibullying bill … to provide local school districts with the guidance and support they need to make it very clear that bullying will not be allowed in our schools,” Dayton said.
A number of states passed legislation to crack down on bullying toward the end of the last decade, but Minnesota activists were dealt a major setback in 2009 when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed an antibullying measure.
Activists’ passions had been ignited about that time by a series of high-profile incidents of alleged bullying and suicides among students in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, which ultimately resulted in intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice. That led to a legal settlement that forced the state’s largest district to get more involved in policing harassment against students.
Issue of local control
Republicans raised concerns that the legislation would put school officials in the position of choosing sides in what can be murky student disputes.
Republicans also raised the issue of local control.
“We’re telling school administrators, teachers, school board members, ‘We don’t trust you to take care of this,’ ” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “If we can’t trust those school board members to do this, how can we trust them to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars we give them every year?”
Republicans voted unanimously against the bill and were joined by three DFLers: Sens. Lyle Koenen of Clara City, Dan Sparks of Austin and LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer.
The bill’s supporters said that even if they never stamp out harassment among students, the proposal would move the climate at schools in a positive direction.
“We hope we can create a world that is less cruel for our kids,” said Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis.
Abby Simons • 651-925-5043 Patrick Condon • 651-925-5049