Skip to main content

Senate panel OKs revamped anti-bullying bill, critics not satisfied


A revised version of a much-critiqued anti-bullying bill passed a key Senate committee on Tuesday, but opponents argue the bill is still too specific about which groups are protected.

Hundreds of supporters and opponents packed the state Capitol Tuesday for the bill's first hearing of this legislative session.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who co-authored the proposed Safe and Supportive Schools Act, presented the edited bill that tightened the definition of bullying to a pattern of “intimidating, threatening, abusive or harming conduct” and cut expensive or onerous mandates, according to the Star Tribune.

Advocates for school administrators praised the latest changes to the bill that address concerns over costly legislation that would be difficult for schools to implement, the Pioneer Press reports.

"This is in very good shape as it comes here today," Roger Aronson of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association told the Pioneer Press. "We think it works well on behalf of kids."

The revamped bill was not to the liking of Republican members of the Senate Education Committee. Opponents are still concerned about the bill's cost and school districts' control over local decisions, the Pioneer Press reports.

Opponents say the bill is also too narrowly focused on specific groups and doesn't broadly protect all students, according to the Associated Press. The bill forbids the bullying of people based on the following: Race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability.

Critics have said they worry that the language in the bill that specifically protects gays threatens religious freedom, WCCO notes. Dibble argues that the bill protects all children, but that it's necessary to list certain groups that are susceptible to bullying.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said the latest amendments may have satisfied school administrators, but there have been no changes to address concerns over how the legislation will affect students, the Pioneer Press says.

"Nothing has been substantially changed in this bill to protect kids," Chamberlain told the Pioneer Press. "This is about the innocence of kids. Nothing has been done in this bill to address that."

There was emotional testimony on both sides of the issue. Kathy Trosvik’s 12-year-old son Tom hanged himself after he was bullied by classmates – she testified against the anti-bullying bill, saying the bill's focus on specific groups is not the right answer, the Star Tribune reports.

The bill was approved after five hours of testimony. The amended legislation was sent to the Senate Finance Committee before it heads to the Senate floor.

Next Up

Dalvin Cook

Report: Dalvin Cook has dislocated shoulder, will undergo MRI

The Vikings running back was carted off the field in Sunday's loss to the 49ers.

Kirk Cousins

Watch: Kirk Cousins lines up under guard on critical 4th down play

Kirk Cousins went "Full Kirk" at the worst possible time.

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook injured, Vikings drop crucial game against 49ers

The Vikings couldn't stop the Niners' rushing attack in a 34-26 loss.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Man airlifted to a hospital after police shooting in Forest Lake

Police allege that the man presented a threat to officers.

Minnesota Wild

Wild's two third-period goals take down the Lightning

Ryan Hartman's go-ahead goal defeated the two-time defending champions.

Byron Buxton

Reports: Twins reach extension with Byron Buxton

The long-term deal locks in one of the Twins' franchise players.

Justin Jefferson

Vikings-49ers: 5 things you can count on

Sunday's matchup is a pivotal game in the NFC playoff picture.

Gopher Football

Watch: Gophers troll Badgers with 'Jump Around' after Saturday's win

First they took Paul Bunyan's Axe. Then they took their tradition.

Brandon Richart, missing person

Search underway for missing man in Anoka area

Brandon Richart was last seen Nov. 17.

U.S. Bank Stadium

5 teams win first state championships at Prep Bowl

A pair of records fell as the Prep Bowl lived up to the hype.


Teachers criticize Anoka-Hennepin district over anti-bullying panel -- with no teachers on it

The district's task force also has no students or school counselors. Instead, the Pioneer Press reports, the group has a prevention specialist, three public relations experts and a lawyer. The district has come under fire after a rash of student suicides that some blame on bullying. Critics say the district's policies do nothing to protect students from harassment.

House lawmakers debut anti-bullying bill

Democratic Attorney General Lori Swanson first proposed the legislation that would require educators to promptly report bullying and discipline students involved. Minnesota's current anti-bullying statute is only 37 words. The Star Tribune reports the bipartisan bill was introduced in the House Thursday.