The Bullying Bill

The Safe and Supportive MN Schools Act,  HF 826 is inaccurately named. We prefer to call it by the more accurate description of what it really is, Governor Dayton’s bill is unsafe for children, unfair to parents and teachers, and an unfunded assault on our independent school districts. Download the PDF of THE AMENDED BILL: House State of Minnesota HF 826

How did your MN State Representative vote? The House Vote on HF 826

We explain why the following people oppose the Bullying Bill:


Why Schools, Educators and School Boards Oppose the Bullying Bill:

Unfunded Mandate:

HF826 imposes upon school districts an unfunded mandate of nearly $50 million. The original Office of Management and Budget  (MMB) score was $50 million, however, Sen. Dibble and the other bill authors pressured the MMB  to reduce it to $39 million claiming it will cost rural schools less per student to comply. This is simply not the case and the unbiased estimate is $50 million.

The schools must designate one person on site at each school building. This person is responsible for investigating allegations and making sure policies/remediation and disciplinary measures are followed.

Loss of Independent, Local Authority:

The schools are on the hook financially to implement the directives in the bill, even if they have current policies that work. It is a one size fits all solution to an issue that is not a crisis. When some parents find out that their child has been unfairly accused, some will sue the schools, especially if the allegation might harm a student’s ability to get into the college of his/her choice. The schools will have to take education dollars to fight those lawsuits.

Teachers and staff will have to take time away from academic instruction to police social media, conversations etc.

The bill creates an unsafe learning environment. It puts a gag order on students and will leave them anxious and apprehensive about misspeaking, and fearful that it will be classified as bullying. Education requires the free exchange of ideas without fear of persecution.

The Commissioner can deny funding to any school district based on her determination that the school’s policy does not comply with the statute, should this bill become the law.

Lack of Support from Associations and Parents

The various school associations across the state and the MN School Board Assn continue to have significant concerns about HF826. MSBA was successful in getting an amendment in the Senate version changing the training requirement to a three-year rather than one-year cycle. That changes the bill, requiring it go back to the House. In a new legislative session, the authors may sacrifice that same amendment in an effort to make the Senate language match the House version.

The authors claim there was local support in developing the law. If local development is so important to the authors of this bill, why not let the local schools just keep the policies they have? Why force everyone to adopt one state model, especially when the school’s current policy is working? Why make school districts pay for policies they neither want nor need? That’s not local. It’s a top-down approach that can be traced all the way back to the federal level.

Incident reports of bullying are kept at the schools in a data base accessible at the state level. That means that something a student said years earlier could follow him, through his school records, all through college and may even impact his ability to get into a college. When parents find out about this data privacy issue they are going to feel like the trust between them and school administrators and teachers has been violated. They will hold school boards and superintendents accountable for not protecting their student’s privacy.

Teachers, staff and parents can be trusted to create a safe and caring learning environment for students without a top-down, heavy-handed, state law.

We have heard from teachers and they voice strong opposition to HF826. Here are a few reasons why:

The bill’s definition of bullying is so vague that it could include anything that hurts someone’s feelings. Teachers resent being made into some kind of speech police for the government.

This bill requires teachers, by force of law, to override their best judgment and report whatever they might even suspect is bullying, regardless of whether they can manage the situation on the spot. It inserts the state right into their classrooms and in their personal relationships with their students. They could face lawsuits for anything less than full compliance. It will foster a climate of suspicion and mistrust, it diminishes and undermines their role, and it will have a huge negative impact on teaching.

When teachers find out that this law will require curriculum that includes pictures, concepts or assignments designed to promote any variety of sexual behavior as normal and healthy, they are appalled. Many teachers have a diverse student population. There is no way to do this without violating the deeply held family values of some Muslim, Hispanic, Christian and other populations.

We have heard from parents across the state and they are furious about HF 826. Here are a few reasons why:

Parents are outraged and offended that they don’t have a parental notification requirement. Sen. Dibble is wrong to shut out parents like this. No one loves their child like their mom and dad. Parental notification should not be “presumed” as the bill states, it should be required.

When parents are shown the Legislative Auditor’s report on the huge data privacy problems with the MN Department of Education, they see the data privacy danger! This law requires that all bullying reports will go into our children’s personal files—a database with no guarantee of security. We know too well how that information can be accessible as students start to seek out jobs and colleges. It’s unnecessary, risky, and a really bad idea.

Parents of students in private schools know that if most kids in public schools are reading and looking at sexually explicit material like some of what’s being recommended as a way to “prevent bullying,” then their kids aren’t safe, either. This is seriously harmful on young minds, and studies prove that. We should be protecting our children from the psychological harm being done with this kind of material. Stopping bullying means teaching students kindness and respect for all, not dragging them into disturbing ideas, thoughts, and fantasies.

Parents are outraged and offended that they don’t have a parental notification requirement. Sen. Dibble is wrong to shut out parents like this. No one loves their child like their mom and dad. Parental notification should not be “presumed” as the bill states, it should be required.

When parents are shown the Legislative Auditor’s report on the huge data privacy problems with the MN Department of Education, they see the data privacy danger! This law requires that all bullying reports will go into our children’s personal files—a database with no guarantee of security. Parents are legitimately concerned that bullying incident reports, whether true of false, might be accessible to outside interests as students seek out college admission and employment. It’s unnecessary, risky, and a really bad idea.

Parents of students in private schools know that if most kids in public schools are reading and looking at sexually explicit material like some of what’s being recommended as a way to “prevent bullying,” then their kids aren’t safe, either. This is seriously harmful on young minds, and studies prove that. We should be protecting our children from the psychological harm being done with this kind of material. Stopping bullying means teaching students kindness and respect for all, not dragging them into disturbing ideas, thoughts, and fantasies.

Students have real concerns about how HF826 will affect them. Here are a few reasons why:

Students are right to fear the consequences of failing to report a bullying incident that falls under the new vague and expansive definition, rather than simply telling someone to knock it off. If they don’t report, are they going to be punished as a bully, too? This system seems to be more interested in reported bullying incident numbers than teaching students to just stick up for one another.

With no schedule for destruction of proven or unproven bullying incident reports, students may fear a false or unproven incident stamped on their transcript more than a failing grade. They are further alarmed to discover their social media and phones can be monitored whether they are at school or at home. They feel their rights to free speech and privacy are threatened by this.

Students are opposed to the bullying bill because its vague bullying definitions are dangerous. Conversations that a student takes as offensive or as a cause for emotional distress can be reported as bullying, no matter how sincere the expression. Students’ freedom to speak, to build relationships, and to share their conscientiously held beliefs with each other about sexuality and morality or about the well-being of their fellow students is deeply violated.

Students oppose being trained to secretly report on each other. They all become victims of a massive surveillance system where any student may be reported anytime over what they say and how they act. Bullies will find this system especially useful.


From the MSBA website 2014 legislative priorities:

Anti-Bullying Bill = New Senate language – SF 3 (783) / HF 826 IMPLEMENTATION concerns: Combines present bullying and harassment into a new mega bullying definitions. You can’t hide — MDE Commissioner could hold back part or all of your school state aid. Impacts all students and adults. Training for all volunteers and employees in the first year of service and then every three years.

“We cannot support the bill as written.”2

Hinckley-Finlayson Superintendent Rob Prater said: “With the bill’s definition, bullying can be anytime anything makes someone feel bad.”1

The Minnesota Catholic Conference’s 2013-14 legislative platform says, “Combating bullying should never be a pretext to impose an agenda of groups of people, or to undermine the rights of parents to bestow their religious or moral values on their children.”1

“The state cannot simply legislate bullying out of schools,” said East Central School Superintendent Andrew Almos. “I would like to see the legislation be less prescriptive and allow school staff to focus on working with kids to improve the culture and climate in our schools. Initiatives are well underway in our local communities.”1

“My frustrations with this effort are focused mainly on the perception that schools do very little to prevent acts of bullying and hazing. This is simply not true. Schools day in and day out work to provide safe and supportive schools,” Almos said.1

State Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) estimates the bill will cost $51 million over its first two years. “This is a classic example of well-intentioned politicians in St. Paul not realizing the far-reaching implications of the bill that they passed and a case where they believe local officials can’t handle certain issues,” Hall said.1

“How much will this cost and who will pay for it? It is hard to know what this means exactly or how it will ultimately be implemented. In general, I believe that this is the wrong approach,” said Pine City Schools Superintendent Wayne Gilman.1

“This file seems punitive in nature and creates additional and unnecessary cost and labor for everyone,” Gilman said. “Matters of cyberbullying are not likely to be fixed by anything in this file since cyber bullying can happen primarily outside school. This appears to be yet another unfunded mandate from the State.”1

The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act is the “worst policy I have ever seen in my time here,” said state Rep. and Education Committee minority leader Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton).1

1MN Bill Could Make Bullying ‘Anything, Any Time’ by T.A. LeBrun
2http://www.mnmsba.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Advocacy/JLC2014PPT.pdf

Top-Down Flow Chart of “Anti-Bullying” Bill – HF 826

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