One of the pieces of legislation moving through the legislature right now is the so-called “Safe and Supportive Schools Act” also known as the anti-bullying bill. This remarkably misnamed proposal does little to actually solve the issue of bullying in schools while infringing on the rights of students, parents, and locally-elected school boards.
No student should be subject to bullying for any reason. School should be a place where kids feel safe and comfortable to learn. However, a one-size-fits-all directive from a bureaucracy based out of St. Paul is not the way to solve the problem of bullying – especially for Greater Minnesota schools.
What is deeply concerning to me about this legislation is that the definition of “bullying” is not clear. Because students come from different cultural and faith backgrounds, what may be a genuine expression of one’s belief could be construed by another to be offensive enough to be considered bullying. Even more troubling is the fact that the language of this bill contains no requirement that parents be notified if their child is accused of bullying. What remedy do parents have in such a situation? A critical part of education is making sure our students are allowed to have a free exchange of ideas. If fear of reprimand discourages an honest discussion in the classroom, we are failing our students.
I’ve spoken with school board members, superintendents, and school administrators in our district. They have told me this bill is not only unnecessary because of anti-bullying policies already in place in their schools, but it would pose a significant burden given the fact it places an up to $50 million unfunded mandate on school districts.
We can all agree that there is no place for bullying in our schools. However, the best way to address the problem is to allow schools boards, superintendents, school administrators, and parents to come together on a local level and come up with solutions Encroaching upon on the free speech of students, removing parents from the discipline process, and allowing St. Paul bureaucrats to take control will not meaningfully solve the problem of bullying.
With the legislature now in session, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact me by phone, call (651) 296-9918. Mail can be sent to Rep. Steve Green, 231 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota 55155.