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Minnesota needs strong anti-bullying laws for kids

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

"It's just 'kids being kids.'" "It has always gone on." These are often the responses or excuses given for instances of bullying in our school systems.

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Recently, it was reported that a girl in Massachusetts committed suicide after being subjected to repeated bullying on school grounds. In our area, an elementary student was urinated on in the school. Were some of the school shootings that have occurred in our country a result of bullying? Perhaps. I think we are all aware that bullying has, and does occur. This not only occurs with children with disabilities, with whom our organization works, but can happen to all children.

Do schools have a policy? Is that policy effective? Do schools "look the other way" when bullying occurs?

The watchdog group Bully Police USA indicates 41 states have some sort of anti-bullying law, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

This group gave North Dakota a grade of "F", as it has no such law on statute. It gave Minnesota a "C-", as its law lacks enforcement mechanisms. It states that anti-bullying laws should cover these points:

- The word "bullying" must be used in the text. Not words such as "hate crimes, intimidation, harassment."

- The law must be an anti-bullying law, not a school safety law.

- Clear definitions of bullying and harassment must be included.

- Don't define the victim. Anyone can be a target.

- Clear recommendations on how to make a school policy and what needs to be in that policy.

- Laws should require anti-bullying training for staff, students and prevention programs.

- A good law mandates, not suggests, anti-bullying programs.

- There must be protection against reprisal, retaliation or false accusation.

- Schools must be protected against lawsuits upon compliance to policies.

- Victims should be assigned counseling to protect for future suffering.

- Mandated reporting for parents and students, and mandated posting of policies.

Students today are not like the students of my generation or my parent's generation. They are exposed to many more outside influences, both positive and negative, and thus need protections as they grow and become productive adults.

Hopefully legislators also see the seriousness of this issue, and we do not want a death by suicide to act; but act now.

John W. Johnson

Advocate/Trainer

Options Center for Independent Living

East Grand Forks

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