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St. Paul Johnson High student Nancy Thao joined fellow students who wore stickers on their faces and held signs during the rally at the State Capitol against bullying Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, in St. Paul, MN.

David Joles, Star Tribune

Teens join anti-bullying effort

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH
  • Star Tribune
  • February 11, 2012 - 9:52 PM

Every year, Maureen Conway poses a challenge to her students: Find a problem and fix it.

For four Mounds Park Academy seniors, that project morphed Saturday into a rally at the State Capitol, with dozens of metro-area students encouraging legislators to strengthen Minnesota's anti-bullying law -- deemed one of the weakest such laws in the nation.

"We wanted to make a point that it's not just adults that should be working on this," Annette Eneanya, 18, said. "Kids are trying to fight to make sure they aren't bullied."

She knows that firsthand. In elementary school, classmates taunted her for being tall. Later, kids terrorized her and her brother on the school bus, prompting her to stay home in fear.

"It definitely changes somebody's life," she said.

Besides pressing their peers to stand up to bullies, she and her classmates hope the rally attended by more than 75 teens will add momentum to proposed legislation by Rep. Jim Davnie and Sen. Scott Dibble -- one of two proposals this year to amend the state's 37-word anti-bullying law.

"What we're seeing across the country is a movement demanding an end to bullying," Davnie said. "Now it includes students -- and that's critical. Hopefully that helps convince some of my colleagues that creating safe schools for all is not a political risk."

The Students Demanding Change leaders -- Eneanya, Louise Edwards, Sydney Eberwein and Audrey Berdahl-Baldwin -- put on Saturday's rally with help from PACER's National Bullying Center in Bloomington. While it was the culmination to the project, they vow to continue the fight for a detailed anti-bullying law beyond their public-policy class. After all, they already got A's.

"They're going to walk out of this today and realize that this is a democracy and they can effect change," Conway said. "It gives me faith in the future."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141; Twitter: @kellystrib

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