Bullying law begins Capitol journey with emotional testimony

7:10 PM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A new law aimed at preventing bullying in Minnesota schools began its Capitol journey Thursday with emotional testimony in a House committee hearing.

"We currently have the weakest anti-bullying statute in the country. That's been the case for a number of years," said Rep. Jim Davnie, who co-authored the anti-bullying legislation.

The legislation is based primarily on the conclusions of an anti-bullying task force created by Gov. Dayton in February 2012. The bill calls for districts to create their own bullying policies, but it also creates a state organization -- a School Climate Center -- that would both serve as a resource to districts and track bullying incidents throughout the state.

"What we're doing is making sure that all districts are engaged to make sure that all students across the state are safe and then providing resources to make it happen," Davnie said.

Among the emotional testimony heard during the bill's first hearing, was that of a bullying victim and that of a mother whose son committed suicide after being bullied.

"He was very shy and sensitive, and I think that initially made him an easy target," said Ann Gettis, who said her 21-year-old son, Jeremiah, killed himself after years of bullying -- starting in elementary school.

"No more finger-pointing and blaming. We all have a role in it happening and in the prevention of it," Gettis said.

Krystin Schuette agrees. The 20-year-old former Anoka Hennepin student says she was a victim of bullying related to her life as a bisexual student.

"People were threatening me. People were harassing me in school. My teachers didn't respond in a positive way... I ended up dropping out of high school, and I attempted to commit suicide," she said.

Meantime, the bill does have opposition among those who believe it goes far beyond protecting potential bullying victims.

"It really is seeking to promote diversity training and shape the values of young children on issues of sexuality and family structures," said Tom Prichard with Minnesota Family Council.

Prichard also planned to testify Tuesday night against the bullying legislation.

Supporters of the law believe they have a strong chance of its passage this year, due to a DFL-controlled legislature and the strong support of Gov. Dayton.

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