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Building a Better Minnesota for our Students

Published: April 10, 2014

Yesterday, Minnesota’s State Capitol was buzzing with the sounds of students, parents, educators and advocates—Minnesotans from across the state who came together to watch Governor Mark Dayton sign the Safe and Supportive Schools Act into law.

The governor was joined by the sponsors of the bill in the Minnesota Senate and House, Senator Scott Dibble and Representative Jim Davnie, superintendent of the Farmington School District Jay Haugan, and the members of the Governor’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying.

While the crowd was excited to hear from these dedicated public servants, everyone agreed that youngster Jake Ross stole the show with his moving words about his own experiences being bullied and his enthusiasm for the passage of the act. The 11-year-old from Forest Lake, Minn., voiced the thoughts of many gathered on the steps when he said, “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”

After witnessing the momentous occasion, Commissioner Cassellius released a statement, summarizing why this law is important for Minnesota:

“Today, I stand with students, parents, and educators across the state to say thank you to Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature for supporting and passing the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. All of our students deserve safe and supportive places where they can learn, thrive and succeed. With Governor Dayton’s signature, Minnesota will no longer have one of the weakest anti-bullying laws in the nation, but instead will have a law that states clearly that Minnesotans are committed toward putting our students’ safety first.”

Now, as schools begin implementing the new law, Blogg[ED] has put together a list of what it means for them and how MDE will offer support to districts.

4 Ways the Safe and Supportive School Act Will Help Build a Better Minnesota for Students

1. Each District Will Have a Locally Adopted Policy – Minnesota prides itself on being a local control state. The act ensures each district and charter has the autonomy to implement an anti-bullying policy that they create and that fits their community.

2. It Clearly Defines Bullying – The act defines what behaviors, and patterns of behaviors, should be considered bullying in Minnesota schools—including online bullying through social media.

3. Creates a Designated Advocate in Each School - The act designates a staff member at each school to monitor and investigate reports of bullying behavior. It also provides regular training and professional development for teachers and staff to identify and prevent bullying behavior.

4. Provides Support for Schools - The act creates a School Safety Technical Assistance Center at the Minnesota Department of Education to help school districts develop and implement anti-bullying policies at the local level. This means that:

MDE will draft a model policy for districts to consider.

MDE will hire staff to provide technical assistance regarding the policy, creating safe and supportive environments to reduce the amount of bullying, and to use formative and restorative discipline to hold students accountable and make amends for harm they have caused.

MDE will develop webinars for school staff and administration regarding effective prevention and intervention practices.

When asked, MDE will assist a district or school in helping students understand social media and cyberbullying.

MDE will provide technical assistance through the Regional Centers of Excellence making the state better able to respond to schools and parents with calls and concerns.

MDE will help districts review and assess their data regarding school climate, bullying incidents and the effectiveness of interventions.

MDE is creating a tool kit to aid districts in assessing their school climate, and the effectiveness of practices regarding bullying prevention and intervention.

MDE will work with the School Safety Center at the Department of Public Safety to coordinate programming for all schools on crisis response as well as prevention.