Report: Minn. among states with least prescriptive anti-bullying lawsby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota is given low marks in a U.S. Education Department analysis and report on bullying laws.
The report puts Minnesota in a group of ten states with the least prescriptive laws.
Just 37 words long, Minnesota's law only requires local districts to enact a bullying prevention policy; it does not outline what those policies should include, except to include a mandate that the local policies also address online, or cyber-bullying.
In 2010, the federal department issued guidance that outlined specific components that officials considered essential to an effective anti-bullying law. Those components include requirements that districts develop local bullying policies; that laws outline legal remedies and require schools to train staff how to address bullying.
The report finds Minnesota has just two of those components in place — the lowest number in the nation, except for the four states without any law at the time of the report's writing.
The federal report notes Minnesota is one of just three states to prohibit bullying without defining it. Wisconsin is another. Researchers note a statewide definition is crucial, given the fact that bullying means different things to different people.
"That would be the equivalent of having a speeding law that simply says 'speeding is wrong' without actually saying what speeding is and how fast constitutes speeding," said Kevin Jennings, in a May 2010 MPR news investigation into Minnesota's bullying law.
At the time, Jennings was an assistant deputy secretary in the U.S. Department of Education. He has since left that post.
The new report also puts Minnesota in the minority for not requiring in its law that state officials develop a model policy for local districts to use. In Minnesota, that task has been performed by a group called the Minnesota School Boards' Association.
Also, Minnesota and Idaho's state bullying laws are the only laws in the nation that don't address whether bullying prevention policies shall include behavior that occurs off school grounds. Many Minnesota districts do address that in their local policies, although critics have said that leaves an inconsistent patchwork of policy across the state.
In November, Governor Mark Dayton said he'd create a task force to study Minnesota's law and recommend changes. Attorney General Lori Swanson also said she planned to push for bullying prevention legislation at the Capitol next year.