Minnesota attorney general seeks anti-bullying lawMinnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson encouraged the Minnesota Legislature to enact a bill to address school bullying that is patterned after one passed in North Dakota on a bipartisan basis earlier this year.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson encouraged the Minnesota Legislature to enact a bill to address school bullying that is patterned after one passed in North Dakota on a bipartisan basis earlier this year.
“No child should be afraid to go to school because of bullying. While policies and reporting cannot stop all bullying, they can set a strong tone and school culture against it,” said Attorney General Swanson.
In the last few years, Minnesota has garnered adverse national public attention for a spate of school bullying incidents. Minnesota’s current anti-bullying law is one of the shortest in the nation and simply requires schools to adopt a written policy prohibiting bullying, without specifying any standards or reporting requirements.
Under the legislation proposed by Attorney General Swanson and modeled after North Dakota’s law, school districts would be required to adopt an anti-bullying policy by January 1, 2013 which requires bullying incidents to be reported and investigated. Among other things, the law would require the policy to:
--Prohibit students from engaging in bullying or in reprisal or retaliation against bullying victims or those who report bullying.
--Establish procedures for immediate reporting of alleged acts of bullying or bullying-related retaliation.
--Establish procedures for schools to follow in investigating reports of alleged bullying or retaliation.
--Establish disciplinary measures applicable to those who engage in bullying or bullying-related retaliation, including graduated consequences for such behavior.
--Require law enforcement to be notified if an investigation results in a reasonable suspicion that a crime may have occurred.
--Establish strategies to protect bullying victims.
--Establish bullying prevention programs for all K-12 students.
A copy of the policy must be discussed with students and district personnel and widely distributed in the schools. To foster greater public transparency, a copy of the policy would be filed with the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, each school district would also file an annual public report with the Attorney General’s Office that identifies all material incidents of bullying.
The bill proposed by Attorney General Swanson is patterned after a bill that passed the North Dakota Legislature on a bipartisan basis earlier this year. The North Dakota legislation has been given an “A plus plus” rating by the national website: www.bullypolice.org. Minnesota’s current bullying law has been given a grade of “C minus” by the same website, which is the lowest ranking of any state with the exception of three states that have no laws.
Up to 85 percent of all bullying happens in front of witnesses, including adults, according to the U.S. Secretary of Education. Yet, bullying often goes unreported.
Anti-bullying efforts work. Both the government website www.stopbullying.gov and the group Fight Crime: Invest In Kids report that school initiatives to prevent and stop bullying can reduce bullying by up to 50 percent.
13 percent of Minnesota 6th, 9th and 12th graders are bullied regularly (e.g. once a week or more) according to a 2011 study by the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education. This means that over 100,000 students report being bullied at least once a week.
Nationwide, more than 3.2 million children in grades 6 through 10 are victims of bullies each year, while 3.7 million bully other children, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
42 percent of children have been bullied while online, according to Pacer Center.
160,000 children miss school every day because of intimidation by other students. (Pacer Center, Bullying Fast Facts.)
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids reports that kids who are bullied are five times more likely to be depressed.