Thursday, February 20, 2014

Anti-Bullying Update.  To recap where we were at the end of last session, the anti-bullying bill (HF 826) passed the House last May on a straight party-line vote of 72-57.  The bill made it to the Senate floor, but did not receive a floor vote.  Because it did not receive a floor vote, the bill was returned to the last standing committee it passed through on its way to the floor (in this instance, the Senate Finance Committee), where it will be when the 2014 session begins.

While most everyone wants an anti-bullying bill to pass, there is significant discomfort with a number of aspects of HF 826, particularly the bill's lack of a clear definition of bullying and the considerable reporting requirements that school districts would be saddled with under the bill's directives.  Cost estimates of the bill range from between $30 million and $50 million and there is no appropriation contained in the bill, meaning school districts would have to cover the costs related to establishing and maintaining an anti-bullying program from the general fund.  Although school districts received increased funding in 2013 ( and we thank the Legislature and Governor for that), much of that revenue is going to maintain programs and/or bring back programs cut during the lean years just preceding last year's bump.

Recent comments by Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Virginia) seem to point to the possibility of a bi-partisan approach to the current anti-bullying bill that would tighten up the definition and mitigate elements of the bill to remove the specter of an unfunded mandate.  Below is a link to the interview with Senator Bakk in which he discussed the anti-bullying bill.  The interview talks about his caucus' priorities during the 2014 session with the anti-bullying comments commencing at about the 2:30 mark.


One example of an anti-bullying bill which has the support of both the education community is the legislation enacted by North Dakota in 2011.  Here is a link to that bill.  There may have been amendments added to the legislation in 2013 and I will try to find that language if it exists, but this is the bill as it was passed in 2011.  Note that the North Dakota bill weighs in at 4 pages and the current bill being considered in Minnesota is just under 20.  The North Dakota bill earned an A++ grade from Bully Police USA, an organization dedicated to curbing bullying in schools throughout the country.

I want to hear from SEE members with their take on the anti-bullying legislation, so please let me know your opinions.


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