Does anti-bullying law pick on school districts?An anti-bullying bill for local school districts has Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, up in arms.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
An anti-bullying bill for local school districts has Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, up in arms.
Ingebrigtsen said that Minnesota is on its way to having one of the strictest and detailed anti-bullying laws in the country.
He noted that the new law would replace a clear and fair law on children’s harassment with one that puts harsh requirements on school boards and administrators by requiring funds and staff time to be spent on complying with the new provisions.
Although the current law already prohibits all forms of bullying, the bill specifies more than a dozen characteristics that could be targets for harassment, including sexual orientation or gender expression, marital status, “actual or perceived race,” socio-economic status, disability, physical characteristics and national origin.
Ingebrigtsen said he opposes the bill for a number of reasons, including that the expansion of the law would make the Legislature a “super school board,” pushing more state mandates on local officials and creating costs to school districts that already face state aid reductions.
Alexandria School District 206 Superintendent Terry Quist said the school district already has policies in place for anti-bullying, anti-hazing and anti-harassment.
Although he is not familiar yet with the proposed new anti-bullying law, Quist said he has concerns about unfunded mandates.
He believes that bullying is a challenge in any school district, but that school districts have policies in place and in addition, School District 206 has a Code of Conduct for all of its schools.
“It [bullying] is present, but I don’t think it is a huge issue,” said Quist. “We have incidents each year, but they are always taken care of.”
Ingebrigtsen noted that while there are always cases of misbehavior, additional language will not clarify the situation, and it could very well open new avenues for lawsuits against schools.
“The Legislature and others continue to try to legislate certain bad behaviors by bringing more attention to them, instead of building real respect and character education into the curriculum,” said Ingebrigtsen. “Legislation like this does nothing but push more Minnesotans into a victim class, and adds to the bureaucratic demands passed down from St. Paul.”
School District 206’s anti-bullying policy has been in place since August of 2007.