New anti-bullying law on the horizon

Emma Nelson

Minnesota schools may soon have to change the way they deal with bullying.

The Task Force on the Prevention of Bullying, appointed by Governor Mark Dayton in February, released their recommendations for increased anti-bullying legislation two weeks ago, and met with the governor on Wednesday, the Star Tribune reported. Dayton has endorsed the task force's recommendation that every school district in the state adopt stronger anti-bullying policies.

According to the Star Tribune, the report also includes recommendations for anti-bullying education for both teachers and students, increased discipline for bullies, funding for school districts to deal with the issue and stronger laws state-wide.

Dayton called the state's current bullying law "weak." According to Minnesota Public Radio the law, which is 37 words long, is seen as one of the worst in the nation.

Another major component of the report is a recommendation for an official defintion of bullying, something the state does not currently have.

Vangie Castro, a task force member, told MPR that the new definition is perhaps the most important part of the report. Parents, administrators and staff often "don't know exactly what bullying is," she said.

According to MPR, One concern about the report is the recommendation that all suspected bullying incidents be investigated and reported to the state. Kelly Smith, a non-voting member of the task force and Belle Plaine School District superintendant, questioned the feasibility of such a requirement.

"We recognize this is a serious issue," he said, "but we also have to look at the reality of if we have the manpower to deal with all of the reporting mechanisms that have been talked about at one point or another."

The report emphasizes the importance of increased state funding to deal with the issue, something Dayton has noted as well.