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Senate backs harassment policy

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ST. PAUL - Bullying and other types of harassment would not be tolerated in Minnesota schools under a bill senators tentatively approved Thursday.

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On a 43-22 vote, the Senate approved a bill requiring school boards to adopt a policy that prohibits harassment. The policy applies to students and school workers.

"The fact is some kids suffer vastly more significant forms of harassment," Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said, specifically saying gay students often are victims.

"We don't tolerate this type of activity from adults; why do we tolerate it from kids?" he added.

But Republicans opposed the measure.

"We need to resist this temptation to be the super state school board," said Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina. "We need to leave these issues to those people who know our students and our kids best - that's our principals, that's our teachers."

In an earlier Senate education committee meeting, debate centered on gay students, with opponents to the bill saying they fear it would go beyond the bullying issue by removing references to "mother and father" from some school law.

Opponents said the bill could lead to an open embrace of pro-gay school curriculum.

Senators Thursday defeated an amendment that would have banned any curriculum promoting homosexual or bisexual lifestyles.

Tax bill coming

The House leaders' tax bill is due to be introduced Monday, and will include provisions to bring local government aid back to 2009 levels in 2012-13.

Yet to be announced is how Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders will raise $1.5 billion in taxes.

The House Taxes Committee Thursday accepted the local aid provision. The bill cuts aid to cities by $10 million in the next two-year budget as a way to help balance the state budget.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said the LGA provision will be in the bill due to be unveiled Monday, along with his plan to allow counties to raise the sales tax instead of property taxes.

The full tax bill likely will receive committee approval next week.

Reports expanded

The House voted 127-1 Thursday to expand schools' investigation of potential teachers.

Bill sponsor Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, said that her bill requires schools to work with the Board of Teaching to obtain disciplinary information on all teacher applicants.

It orders schools to determine whether disciplinary action was taken against the teaching applicant based on sexual misconduct or attempted sexual misconduct with a student.

The bill goes further than a similar law enacted last year that affected coaching applicants.

"It will strengthen background checks on teachers without creating a new crime," Bigham said.

A similar bill awaits Senate action.

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