ST. PAUL, MN – Today, the House passed HF 826, the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act on a 72 to 57 vote. Minnesota currently has one of the weakest anti-bullying laws in the country and this legislation will strengthen and streamline anti-bullying policies statewide. The bill provides a comprehensive framework to protect all students from abusive behavior, supports staff and volunteers in their efforts to prohibit bullying, and will support improved student achievement by providing a safe school environment.
“For Minnesota to be successful we need all of our kids to be successful,” said chief bill author Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis). “We have the opportunity to position Minnesota as a leader in the next generation of education reform by focusing on building strong, safe, and supportive school climates for all students.”
The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act will require that school districts and charter schools either craft their own policy, or adopt the state model policy, to prevent bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, intimidation and promote remedial responses. Schools must consult with students, parents and the community in this process and must annually review and revise their policies. Private schools are encouraged, but not required, to take part.
“We must ensure that every kid who goes to school in Minnesota knows that they are valued, that they will be safe, and that they have an equal shot in life,” said Rep. Davnie. “Strong and comprehensive anti-bullying legislation is necessary to improve our schools and assure our children have the support that they need to succeed academically and socially.”
The bill creates a School Climate Center and Council. The Council will include representatives from education organizations, students, parents, local law enforcement and others. The School Climate Center will provide services, best-practices, data interpretation, planning, administrative, and financial support for schools and communities. The Climate Center and Council will provide support to schools as they implement and practice anti-bullying policies.
“The bullying often doesn’t happen in front of teachers—instead it happens in the playground, on the bus, in the hallway and in the cafeteria,” said Rep. Davnie. “Training all school staff is a key to prevent bullying and to build school climates that are safe and supportive for all students.”
Anti-bullying measures apply when bullying or harassment substantially affects the student and materializes as a disruption in the classroom. Incidents that happen outside of school do not fall under the law unless they become a problem at school, on school property or at school events.
“There is a current balance between students’ constitutional right to freedom of speech and their right to have a healthy school environment,” said Rep. Davnie. “Every kid deserves the opportunity to wake up in the morning and go to a school where they feel safe, respected and will be appreciated and challenged to learn.”
Governor Dayton’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying put forward comprehensive recommendations that helped form the template for the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act.
Rep. Davnie can be reached by phone at (651) 296-0173 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.