John W. Johnson, East Grand Forks, Minn., Published November 22 2013
Letter: It's time for the Legislature to actIt happened again. A recent report is in the news of a female high school student with a cognitive (hidden) disability being photographed in the girl’s shower room with the photos being dispersed via social media: “bullying” in northwestern Minnesota against a student with a disability.
Parents have a reasonable expectation when sending their children off to school that they be safe from physical and/or emotional harm. Schools not only have the responsibility of providing an education but doing so in a safe environment for children.
Some in our society say “bullying has always occurred,” which is accurate. However, today with social media, it can be constant; with children potentially exposed 24/7. This is what makes it different today.
Minnesota has the weakest school anti-bullying law in the nation, but legislatively had the votes to pass a meaningful bill last session. Why didn’t they? Because leadership traded those positive votes for support for construction bonding legislation – they sold out for “bricks and mortar” over the well-being of children. Shame on them.
Some legislators say: leave it up to the schools to police themselves; they will do a fine job. Tell this to the young woman and to her parents in northwestern Minnesota. Schools do a “hit and miss” with bullying programming in the state. Proposed legislation last year, modeled after the North Dakota law, would have provided for a curriculum for every grade level,
K-12 dealing with bullying; not a once-per-year student assembly dealing with the topic. That approach is purely cosmetic with little effect.
We/Options are aware of this student, know her parents, and know which school district is involved. The parents have every right to be upset and indignant.
Gov. Mark Dayton has asked for input as to legislative priorities for this session. He has mine. Get Minnesota off the “worst” list and onto the “best” list for anti-bullying policy like neighboring North Dakota.
Johnson is advocate/trainer, Options Center for Independent Living, East Grand Forks, Minn., serving 14 North Dakota counties and 12 Minnesota counties.