Gov. Dayton signs anti-bullying bill into law

By KBJR News 1

April 9, 2014 Updated Apr 10, 2014 at 8:12 AM CDT

St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Governor Mark Dayton signed the monumental Safe and Supportive Schools Act into law at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

"It's my true honor to be here today at our state capitol for this historic event." 11-year-old Jake Ross of Forest Lake said to a large crowd gathered on the front steps of the Capitol.

Jeff said it was a moment he'd been dreaming about for a very long time.

"Today marks the beginning of a change in thinking about bullying."

He knows first hand.

"I was attacked and repeatedly pushed to the ground at recess and threats of I'm going to kill if you tell anyone were made to me."

It was Jake's experience and others like his that fueled the creation of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act.

"After today in Minnesota, no child should feel unsafe, unwelcome, unloved in their own school, "said the chief author of the bill, Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis).

The new measure replaces a 37-word anti-bullying bill considered among the weakest in the nation.

At its core, the measure requires school leaders to develop a comprehensive anti-bullying policy, train staff to prevent bullying and quickly investigate allegations.

It guides schools on how to protect students from intimidating, threatening or abusive behavior and how they'll respond in a drastically changing world.

"Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender youth are coming out earlier in their lives and expect respect and safety in their schools," said the House author of the bill, Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis)

Duluth East Senior Elise Coffin, who was bullied herself, says the law will help those who have no where else to turn.

"I really learned how to deal with it and not let the negative comments hurt you. But there are kids who go home everyday in tears and don't know who to talk to," said Coffin.

A voice for those like 11-year-old Jake.

"All children and youth in Minnesota will now be able to go school and feel safe and valued," he said.

State and schools now begin the task of working together to draw up a blue print for how the new anti-bullying policy will be implemented.

The law goes into effect next school year.

Critics argue the measure will subject children to punishment for expressing their religious beliefs and say it takes away local control from schools.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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