Sen.: Possible bullying law too costly, sets schools up to fail

MARSHALL – District 22 Sen. Bill Weber says a requirement in the anti-bullying proposal – The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act – sets schools up for certain failure.

A day after the Minnesota Senate narrowly passed its anti-bullying measure, Weber said requiring schools to be responsible for student behavior, not only on campus and at school functions but also away from schools, puts an unfair 24/7 burden on schools.

“I think there’s a presumption that parents will be involved,” he said. “We’ve had so many stories of parents whose children have wound up causing harm to others or themselves as a result of bullying, and frankly the powers that be knew what was going on and never alerted the parents. Without a requirement that parents are involved in the process could present some problems.”

Weber, R-Luverne, says he isn’t condoning bullying but says the bill in its current form will not accomplish the ultimate goal of keeping students safe.

Furthermore, it will result in a major financial burden to schools, he said, as it constitutes a large unfunded mandate on schools.

“Even though they had cut the cost estimate back, it’s still $19 million a year for schools,” he said. “For larger schools, that’s something they can probably handle. But for most of the schools in the rural parts of the state, it’s a big issue.”

Weber said an amendment that would’ve seen the bill go into effect in metro-area schools on a trial basis was turned away.

Weber also decries the future curriculum that could potentially accompany a new anti-bullying law, curriculum he says is intent on influencing lifestyle choices.

Weber said Minnesota should adopt a model similar to North Dakota’s, which meets all federal requirements while preserving local control for schools.

“It lets each district adopt a plan that best suits them,” he said.

District 16 Republican Sen. Gary Dahms told the Independent in February shortly before the session started that the bill goes too far and the state needs to take a “common-sense approach” to the issue.