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Minn. Senate Passes Anti-Bullying Bill

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota Senate passed a bill Thursday to prevent bullying in Minnesota schools.

But even though lawmakers support the idea of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, it is still among the most controversial bills of the year at the Capitol.

Minnesota has been in the national spotlight because of a rash of students committing suicides because of bullying.

Opponents of the bill say it takes away a lot of local control, and imposes a statewide anti-bullying policy. Outside the Senate, demonstrators called the bill “social engineering,” and “liberalism on steroids.”

But supporters of anti-bullying laws have kept on the pressure all year. Minnesota’s 37-word law against bullying is considered among the weakest in the country. Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL- Minneapolis) is the bill’s author, and says the existing bill is so weak that many bullied students simply stop going to school.

“They should be able to expect to go to school feeling safe, feeling supported, not having to make that tradeoff,” Dibble said.

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act writes a new definition of what bullying is, including sexual orientation and gender identification. It trains schools to recognize bullying, and talk to students about a “climate” of bullying.

This has infuriated some Senator parents, like Sen. Michelle Benson (R – Ham Lake).

“It is a big deal to the kids who get pulled out of class to be questioned about what’s going on in their high school,” Benson said.

In the gallery above the Senate debate, some parents of bullied students who committed suicide watched the vote.

We heard from a lot of Senators Thursday who said they oppose bullying. But like many other issues, they cannot find a way to agree on how bad the problem is, or how to fix it.

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