Discussions on how to address bullying issues in schools have been going on at the state Capitol for a few legislative sessions now.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed an anti-bullying bill in 2009, saying that the current law on the books was adequate.
Since then, at least a dozen youth in the state – one is too many—have committed suicide as a result of bullying. The most recent in the news was the tragic suicide of a young teen in southern Minnesota who took her life after months of harassment by school mates.
Current legislature, specifically in the House, is HF1158, which proposes creation of a school climate council and a school climate center. The intent of both would be to offer resources and create, but not require, model policies to improve school safety around bullying issues. The council would include representatives from various groups across the state including school boards, state agencies, parents, local law enforcement and the judicial branch. The school climate center would be based in the Department of Education to provide guidance and information regarding safe learning environments.
The council and center is part of Gov. Mark Dayton's January budget proposal and is expected to cost $1 million for the 2014-2015 biennium.
I believe state-wide anti-bullying programs and legislation are needed to help kids, parents, teachers and schools. It truly is a different world today for our children. With social media, they are constantly bombarded with comments and gossip. And these days, if someone in school puts up his or her "dukes" to defend his/herself or a friend who is getting picked on, and starts (or ends) a fight, stricter school policies punish those youth. They would either face suspension, or depending on severity of the altercation, a lawsuit.
Bullying is a serious issue that affects students and schools. According to a 2010 Minnesota Student Survey, 27% of students reported they had been bullied once a week or more often. In the 2006-2007 school year, there were 857 incidents of bullying resulting in out-of-school suspension or expulsion.
Clearly, the policies Minnesota schools have implemented to address bullying are not working. It's way past time to do more.
And while lawmakers are discussing what to do, school administrators and school boards should seriously be considering some sort of manners class for children.
Yes, a class to learn manners and civility.
With our mash of cultures, the passivity of social interaction via electronics, and a whole generation now raising their own kids after they learned sassiness and rudeness from the likes of TV sitcoms such as "Roseanne," we need someone like Judith Martin or Emily Post to share their knowledge with our young people.
They would benefit from knowing how to write thank-yous, why they should respond to RSVPs, the importance of offering a seat to the elderly. Society would benefit, too.
They would learn the good old-fashioned Golden Rule: Treat others as I want to be treated.
Having better manners would not resolve bullying all together. I do not want to minimize the seriousness associated with this issue. However, if all our children collectively learned basic social and civility values, it just might help a little.