Reports Finds Minnesota Law Weak On Bullying

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A six-month investigation of anti-bullying efforts in Minnesota schools has found a patchwork of local policies with virtually no tracking of bullying incidents and little state oversight, Minnesota Public Radio News reported Monday.

Critics told the station that lack of tracking makes it impossible to gauge how effective schools have become in preventing bullying. It’s one of several weaknesses in the state law, critics claim.

The Legislature first approved an anti-bullying law in 2005 and amended it two years later, but left individual districts largely responsible for combatting school bullying themselves.

The law says, “Each school board shall adopt a written policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student. The policy shall address intimidation and bullying in all forms, including, but not limited to, electronic forms and forms involving Internet use.”

At just 37 words, Minnesota’s anti-bullying law is among the shortest in the nation. It doesn’t include a definition of bullying, mandates about what a district policy must include or penalties for bullies. There’s no requirement that the Department of Education review district policies to make sure they comply.

The only states with fewer restrictions on bullying are Hawaii, Michigan, Montana and South Dakota, which don’t have laws against it, according to Bully Police USA, a nationwide grass-roots group of bullying prevention advocates and researchers. The group gave the Minnesota law a C-, the lowest grade in the nation.

Although policies can only be as good as the people who implement them, they are important, said Judy Kuczynski, president of Bully Police. She said the rules set a tone that helps shape a school’s culture.

“You’ve got something that’s more standard and more universal, so it’s not so arbitrary,” Kuczynski said.

There’s little doubt that bullying persists in Minnesota school districts. A recent analysis by the state departments of Health and Education found that 13 percent of Minnesota sixth, ninth and 12th graders are bullied regularly. If that 13 percent held for the state’s entire student population, it would mean that more than 100,000 students are bullied on a regular basis.

“What’s upsetting is that it’s still going on,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “We just have to be sure we’re creating environments for children that are safe and welcoming.”

Opponents of a stronger law say it would infringe on the local control of schools and there’s no proof that stronger state laws lead to a decrease in bullying cases. However, MPR News reports no one has studied that.

Cassellius said that’s no reason not to update the law.

“This is just simply protecting our children,” she said. “Bullying is not a partisan issue; every single parent in the community wants their child to be safe. To me, this should have been done a while ago.”

To find out what schools were actually doing about bullying, MPR News collected and analyzed the anti-bullying policies of 473 traditional school districts and charter schools in the state. Only 19 districts didn’t respond to requests for their policies.

The station reported Monday ( that about 75 percent of districts that responded use at least part of a generally well-regarded model policy from the Minnesota School Boards Association, which fills in some gaps in the state law.

For example, it includes a definition of bullying that includes written and verbal expressions and physical acts, gestures or patterns intended to cause distress in another student — or that is perceived to. The bullying could harm the student, damage a student’s property or cause them to be fearful or crate a hostile educational environment.

Some districts go beyond the model policy, but others fall short. At least 15 other districts don’t have a bullying policy, but instead include bullying in their harassment policies.

Susan Limber, a professor of psychology at Clemson University, said the words “bullying” and “harassment” are often used interchangeably, but there are important differences.

She said anti-harassment laws are designed to protect someone based on the legally protected classes of race or gender, but a person can be bullied for arbitrary reasons, like their body size or the clothes they wear.

“I think confusing the terms `bullying’ and harassment’ can be problematic for schools,” Limber said.

Allowing local school districts to decide such policies likely is not doing much to curb bullying, said Walter Roberts, a professor of counselor education at Minnesota State University-Mankato, who researches bullying.

“If you give local school districts the option to adopt what they like and not adopt what they don’t like, then I’m not sure we’re providing all the protection for the kids that we need to,” Roberts said.

Critics claim that leaving the issue up to districts also means the lack of a statewide data tracking program .

Minnesota does require schools to report disciplinary incidents — including bullying and cyber-bullying — that lead to at least a day’s suspension. But researchers said most bullying is handled with less-severe discipline.

One Minnesota district that does track data on bullying is Forest Lake, which uses a prevention strategy called Olweus, named for Dan Olweus, a pioneer of bullying research. One requirement is to survey students and track data.

Once schools learned how to use the data, it became an effective tool, said Carolyn Latady, the district’s family support advocate. “Overall, we’ve seen decreases in bullying — certainly kids bullying other and also being bullied,” she said.

One school in the Forest Lake district, Scandia Elementary, had 17 behavior referrals last year, down from 39 a few years ago.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Rich

    How is school bullying even an issue? You can’t tell me it’s more prevalent now than it was when I was in school 25 years ago. Isn’t it kind of a right of passage? If you ask me, it’s the way kids are being raised today. Parents blow so much smoke and sunshine into kids today. “Oh you’re so special, Johnny!” Then when someone picks on them, it’s the end of the world. I’m not saying these kids deserve to be bullied, but they’ve been raised in such a way that their ego is too big and their backbones are absent. Toughen up!

    • jl

      Bullying is a defnite problem in schools throughout the country. So basically you are saying we are not to teach our kids to be nice and respectful to others??? No, it is not a rite of passage, it is just children that never have been taught and parents that don’t care to teach or give consequences when they do bully. I can’t believe an adult is even saying that it is the kids that need to toughen up! And yes bullying is much worse now, they have all the advanced technology to continue it away from school. You were right on one point, and that is only one sentence without reading the next. It is the way kids are being raised today! No regards for anyone else!!! Ugh, this kind of ignorance from an adult made it very hard for me not to reply!

    • mom

      So what do you tell a parent whose child no longer wants to go to school or even get up in the morning because he or she is being picked on or threatened? I would not ever belittle or degrade my child so another person doesn’t have that right either. You must not be a parent or your child(ren) must be perfect because anytime my child is hurt in anyway my heart breaks for them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be bullying, anytime one of my children feel left out or gets in an arguement with one of their friends, I feel for them. Is it the end of the world no but luckily for my family we have not had to experience bullying to that extreme, but I know families that have and it is awful. You have no idea how mean and hurtful kids can be, you should go and sit in a classroom someday just observing the students, it would be a wake up call for you. I understand kids get picked on for little things daily but when another child specifically targets another and is picking, teasing, or threatening them that is crossing the line and bullying. You are part of the problem and I am willing to bet your child would be one of the kids that would be considered a bully.

      • Rich

        With regard to call comments above, all I’m saying is that this bullying problem, much like the vast majority of problems in the school, are from poor parenting. And while the schools should deal with it, they’re handcuffed by PARENTS on BOTHS SIDES of this issue, who complain every time their kid is victimized or suspected of being the offender. Obviously, the parents of the jerks doing the bullying are the biggest problem. If you’re one of them, teach your kids some manners. But the parents of the bullied kids have a hand in this as well. What the heck is a school-aged kid doing with a cell phone or a facebook account in the first place? Nothing good can possibly come from this, so of course it’s going to follow kids home. I was picked on and beat up as a kid too. But did my parents coddle me and get irritated with the schools and the law makers? No! Maybe we should use it as an opportunity to teach our kids how to overcome adversity and deal with the ne’er-do-wells of the world, cuz they aren’t going away!!

        • eastside_evil

          Another dumb comment, Rich.

        • mom

          I can guarantee you that if someone laid a fingure on any of my children they wouldn’t have to worry about the school doing something about it because I would be contacting their parents so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them. No one touches my children, I have a 14, 10, 4,3, and a 2 yr old and my 14 and 10 yr old are both very respectful kids, they are on the honor roll and teachers often comment they wish more of their students would be like my children. My husband and I are very active in all our kids lives and are very active in our school system. We have and continue to raise our children to be respectfull and sympathtic towards their peers and adults. We have also taught our kids that they deserve the same respect they give their peers and it is not ok for someone to pick on them or to beat them up. If you think that is coodling my children so be it and I am sorry your parents didn’t stand up for you and tell you that it is not ok for anyone to touch you. if you’re children were in a relationship would you tell them that it is ok for someone to verbablly or physically abuse them ? Saying that bullying is acceptable is like telling your child that it is ok for someone to abuse them. Getting a diploma is a right of passage in school not getting beat up. Oh and by the way both my children have facebook accts and cell phones

    • Andrew

      Rich, you’re part of the problem. I wouldn’t wish on anyone the stuff I had to deal with 20 years ago, others had it even worse, and it’s twice as bad now. Now with social networking and text messages, it follows kids home. I know from what I put up with, I gained nothing and am sure I would have been better off without it. Even if you weren’t a bully in school, you’re one as an adult. If feel sorry for your kids if you made the mistake of having children.

    • eastside_evil

      My kids deserve to go to school without being terrorized or having to stab someone to make it stop, Rich.

      Anytime you’re interested in “toughening up” you let me know.

      • Rich

        Bring it

        • Just my opinion

          I get what you’re saying Rich. I was bullied and beat up in school too, and in the end it taught me coping & survival skills.

          As it turns out….those “survival” skills ended up being a detriment to my personal development as an adult. I would run away or get into a physical confrontation….neither of which are positive, constructive ways which adults should deal with conflict. I truly do think it made me anxious as an adult too.

          In the end…sure it made me tougher, I can take and give a punch….but also screwed with my head as a kid and young adult.

          Plus, i truly do believe some of the bullying now days, is way worse than what you and me had (because of the technology). And you are right….it is the parents….on both sides. I TOTALLY agree with you about a lot of stuff you said. But I do think bullying is a serious issue, and I wouldn’t wish my childhood experiences on anyone…it served me very little good in the end. So if some constructive dialogue and a good hard look at the issue can maybe prevent a kid or two from having to go through what we did…..then I think it is worthwhile to pursue.

        • eastside_evil

          Again, my kids deserve to go to school and feel safe and not be bullied by your goth, cutter kids, Rich.

          But if your goth, cutter kids think they can bully my kids, they’ll probably not go home that night, since I’ve already discussed that no length is too extreme to go to in order to stifle the bullies once and for all.

          See you on the playground.

          • RealEastSide Sucker

            LOL….so now this guy is teaching his kids its okay to kill the bullies.

            You are a classy piece of work there buddy. Did you hear the people on hear talking about the parents being the problem….they are talking to YOU!!!

            • eastside_evil

              Nice name, but I’m out of your reach when it comes to trying to bully ME, kiddo. lol

              Set your sights lower and get some practice first.

              • RealEastSide Sucker


                How is confronting you on the fact you told your kids its okay to murder bullies….me in fact bullying you?

                Are you legally slow?

                • eastside_evil

                  Murder is a term reserved for something else. Try again. My comment that your kids couldn’t hit mine with a hand full of sand in a telephone booth is supposed to mean that I have had them trained in enough self defense that it won’t be an issue when your little sh1tbagger thinks he’s going to get his rocks off by trying to bully my kids.

                  I know you had to take it to the level of ridiculous, because that’s your technique. Pathetic.

                  You are trying to mock me, make fun of me and call me names. To take it further, you took a username to do the same.

                  Amazing. You’re actually trying to bully me right now because you disagree with me.

                • RealEastSide Sucker

                  Ok buddy.

                  I didnt make you post what you said. You told Rich his kids wouldnt be coming home at all because you taught your kids how “stifle” the bullies.

                  So after you said that and i responded…i guess I am the one talking this to the level of ridiculous? How does that work?

                  Did you or did you not say that you taught your kids no length is too extreme to go to in order to stifle the bullies once and for all??? YES or NO.

                  And when you said that….what did you mean? Because i took it to mean murder. If you didn’t mean that, please explain EXACTLY what you meant when you said those words.

                  I can tell you are frustrated by my direct and clear communication. I am not attempting to spin this, or talk in circles like you.

                  So i guess my pointing out that you, as a parent, told you kids to murder bullies….is in actuallaity ME “mocking, making fun and calling you names”?!?! If so……HOW?

                  Again….are you legally slow or something?

                  (PS my name wasn’t mocking you…i live on the east side, Phalen and Payne, come see me anytime)

    • Todd W. Olson

      So, basically, Rich, what you’re saying is that you’re OK with it? Fantastic…

    • KH

      It has nothing to do with blowing sunshine into the kids. My daughter has been a victim of bullying for the last two years. They have taken pictures of her and used them for sexually related forward messages that are then forwarded to all the kids in school. Does she deserve it, no. Should they be allowed to get away with it, no. She deserves to be treated like any other human. If we do not teach them bullying is not ok now we will complain 10 years from now on how they are filling up our jails. And this article is completely correct, when I went to the school with these messages they told me there was nothing they could do seeing it was not on school property.

  • James

    We should have a law against the bullying Republicans, who nanny us with an adult version of smackdown social legislation.

    • Sam I Am

      Are you serious. Republicans being socialist bullies. Dude you need to quick smoking that whacky tobaccy. Obama is the King of Social legislation.

      • Duh!


        Look up “Governor Walker” in your conservative guide to thuggery.

  • hmm

    I don’t like that photo. Looks like it should be on an article about pedophiles or something.

  • Swamp Fox

    My childhood [public] elementary schools had a great solution for bullies in the schools.

    For first time offenses, the parents were called to the school office to pick up the offender and find why the bullying occurred.

    For the second offense, with all concerned having been forewarned, the “Board of Education”–usually a hickory or oak [well ventilated] paddle–was utilized. Unless instructed by the parents to the contrary, the student remained in school until the day’s end dismissal.

    For repeat chronic bullies, maybe 1-in-100 students, school suspensions and parental conferences were the order of the day. The system worked. Even in high school, bullies were not tolerated. Otherwise, the ubiquitous “Board of Education” was metered out in the assistant principle’s office. Needless to say, again, the system worked! Even the vast majority [95+%] of parents approved! Can this be said about today’s schools handling bullying? Think about it!

    • Rich

      See? Now, I like this idea! While parenting is the root cause of this whole mess, I know the parents aren’t around in school…and some kids act differently in school than they otherwise would in front of their parents (shocking). I’ve got no problem giving school officials the authority to do this. However, too many parents do. “The school is not going to discipline my child!” Whatever. If a teacher catches my kid being a miscreant and demeaning another kid, I’d have no problem with that teacher giving my kid a poke in the chops.

      • eastside_evil

        Sorry Rich, but anybody laying a hand on my child will be forced to “toughen up” by yours truly as I tear his or her arms off and toss them on the ground.

        You cannot beat a child into not bullying. That’s how they became bullies to begin with.

        I just hope the idiot calling himself Rich on here doesn’t have kids or legal rights to be near kids.

        • Rich2

          Tough guy. Now we’ve heard from the “my kid would never do that” ilk. Guess what? You and your a-hole kid is the problem…not the teachers. eastside…thats gotta mean east side of st. paul, so you think you’re tough. actually im surprised you’ve got internet access,poor mouth. how’s the EBT program treating you?

          • eastside_evil

            My kids aren’t bullies. I have 4 sons and non bully others. So no. My “a-hole kid” isn’t the problem.

            No EBT program here, buddy.

            And I don’t need to convince you to think I’m tough because people like you are no threat to me.

            • eastside loser

              No…but apparently they are trained killers!!!

              A direct quote from you previously: “But if your goth, cutter kids think they can bully my kids, they’ll probably not go home that night, since I’ve already discussed that no length is too extreme to go to in order to stifle the bullies once and for all.”

              So congrats your kids aren’t bullies….they just have a psycho path as a parent. I’m sure thats comforting for them!!

              • eastside_evil

                I really don’t think your kids could hit my kids with a hand full of sand in a telephone booth, so I’m really not worried if it came to that. They’d never be in a position requiring that level of defense against anybody you taught to be a bully.

                • EastSide Loser

                  Ummm…I dont even have kids. What are you talking about?

                  By your own admission…you said you’ve discussed NO LENGTH is too extreme…with your kids.

                  Thats what you teach your kids huh? If you maybe said something previously to another poster that you regret….just say that. But your current reponses dont even make sense and just give credibilty to Rich’s claim that you are a moron of some sort.

                • eastside_evil

                  Yes. I teach them that their life is more valuable than the person accosting them in every situation. When a person attacks you unprovoked, they are trying to take your life. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. And I’m right aren’t I…

  • jeff

    my comments are being censored again!!!! wth!

  • jeff

    this is a serious education problem. i was bullied on a daily basis! i mean from kindergarten all the way through senior high. every day all day….non-stop. when one bully grew weary of me another would take his or her place. my parents thought i had attention defecit or that i was just stupid. i did so poorly i was nearly held back a couple of times. i ususally was more worried about i was going to evade imminant attack after class and making it to the next one without having my teeth kicked in. amazingly when i went to college my experience was 180 degrees from that. it was actually about education…..i had a 3.89 gpa……hmmmmmmmm.

  • sugar plum

    lawsuit, sue em! then they will stop bullies! the parents are responsible.

    • Sugar Plum Say What?

      For what….what do you think you’ll gain from sueing the crackhead mother living in section 8 housing?

  • Victim Du Jour

    Only thing Public Schools have to worry about is Physical Violence on school property. Anything off school property falls under the local Police.

    Someone is trying to make a grey area, so lawyers can make a lawsuit gravy train out of public schools.

    • I guess....

      I agree that anything happening off school property falls under local police.

      But what about harrasement, threats and indimidation that happen ON school property. If we are only to worry about Physical Violence on school property….do we just ignore the other types of bullying that take place at school.

      I like your point….just maybe not thought through all the way.

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