Reporting Esme Murphy
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The push for tougher anti-bullying law in Minnesota has an important new supporter. On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced he is creating a task force to come up with tough anti-bullying legislation.
Minnesota’s current law is considered one of the nations weakest. The current law only requires school districts to have an anti-bullying policy but gives no requirements beyond that.
Dayton said he gives the current law a grade of C-.
“Every Minnesota school child has a right to a good education in a safe, supportive, nurturing environment,” Dayton said.
As Dayton announced the creation of the task force, a key anti-bully activist was there to lend her support.
Tammy Aaberg’s 15-year-old son, Justin, hanged himself in his room in July 2010.
Justin’s friends told his mother he’d been bullied at Anoka High School because he was gay. Tammy Aaberg thanked the governor for forming the task force.
“Every day that we do nothing leaves more students feeling defenseless, worthless and afraid to go to school,” she said.
Three other suicides in the same school district have been linked to anti-gay bullying and the district is being sued by five current and former students for failing to prevent bullying.
In 2008, the then-Democratic legislature did pass a tough anti-bullying law only to have it vetoed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
“I often wonder how many lives this could have saved if it were been passed back in 2009 instead of being vetoed,” said Tammy Aaberg.
State Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who sponsored the legislation back in 2008, said he is grateful to the governor for forming the task force but says he is “dubious” the Republican legislature will act on any proposal the task force comes up with.
Republicans are sharply criticizing the announcement of the task force.
Republican State Rep. Pat Garofalo, Chair of the Education Finance Committee said, “While all students deserve a bully free environment” he does not think the solution is “for the state to be telling the school districts to do more things.”