Bullying on agenda for Minnesota lawmakers

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A number of Minnesota lawmakers and activist groups are gearing up for an effort to toughen up the state's 37-word anti-bullying law when the new legislative session starts next month, MPR News reports.

The law is often called among the weakest in the nation. It directs school districts to have a bullying policy, but doesn't offer guidance on what a policy should do.

Della Kurzer-Zlotnick, an 18-year-old senior at St. Paul's Central High School, told MPR News that she faced bullying in seventh grade, mostly hurtful comments directed at her because her two moms are lesbians. She didn't tell her parents or anyone at the school about it, MPR reports.

"I couldn't show them any physical scars, so I didn't think there was anything they could do about it," she said.

But Kurzer-Zlotnick told MPR that she would have sought help five years ago if Minnesota had had a stronger bullying law.

Strengthening the state's anti-bullying law was on the plate of lawmakers last year, but it fell off the table, and legislators vowed then to take another run at it in 2014.

KARE 11 reported that among the groups pushing for a stricter law are the LGBT activist organization OutFront Minnesota and Education Minnesota, the state teacher's union. OutFront has an online petition that calls on lawmakers to strengthen the law.

Critics of creating a tougher anti-bullying law have raised concerns about a law that would specifically create protections for gay and lesbian students, MPR notes. The law also could create unfunded mandates for local districts that would be required to pay for additional staff training, critics have said.

In a six-month 2011 investigation, MPR News reported that the state's weak bullying law resulted in inconsistent policies across the state. Among other topics, the investigation examined cyber bullying and told the stories of three bullied teens who committed suicide.

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