Finally, in Minnesota of all places, which has been home to well more than its fair share of LGBTQ youth suicides from bullying, the Democratically-controlled House sent an anti-bullying prevention law to the desk of Governor Mark Dayton for his signature; he signed it into law yesterday.
But it wasn’t all that easy; the passage of the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act took place only after twelve hours of Republican ranting and raging about the bill. It passed, mostly along party lines, by a vote of 69-63, after passing the Senate last week by a 36-31 vote, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting against it.
It’s a simple bill; it simply requires school leaders to develop a comprehensive anti-bullying policy, train staff to prevent bullying and quickly investigate allegations.
Sounds pretty cut-and-dry, no? Well, opponents of the bill — and by opponents I mean Republicans — say it will take local control from school leaders and give special protections to certain students; I think they mean the gay ones, or perhaps the ones just perceived to be gay.
In their twelve-hour tirade against the bill House GOP members said the bill itself was bullying, called it fascist legislation, and compared it to George Orwell’s 1984. Others in the party used that age old argument that having anti-bullying rules in place would mean that schools would start teaching children about sexuality, most probably homosexuality, I guess. But one Republican Representative, Glenn Gruenhagen, took the fear a step further and said this anti-bullying legislation would force schools to expose children to "filthy, perverted information."
AKA The Gays.
And it mattered not that the Democrats, and the bill itself, mention not one single word about any sex education in fact, Jim Davnie, a democrat and chief sponsor of the measure in the House, said the legislation has nothing to do with curriculum about sex, but the Republicans don’t care. They could use that fear of Little Sally learning about the gay birds and bees to win the battle.
Of course, the most controversial part of the bill, and the part that kept the GOP with their Tea Party panties in a snit, is the section that specifies students cannot be bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Uh oh. Republicans say this amounts to special protections, though proponents say it is necessary to ensure the safety of all students; GOP lawmakers also questioned how the law would be implemented and whether it would restrict students' freedom of speech.
You know, free speech in the way a Christian student could be able to tell a student they assumed was gay that they were sinners, they were depraved, they were less than, and they were going to hell, but if a gay student attacked another student’s religious views that would be all kinds of wrong. You know, that GOP free speech that applies only to the religious and no one else.
Here’s something: how about telling students, all students, that bullying, name-calling, pushing, shoving, taunts and teases, jokes, jabs, slurs, anything that could be construed as harassment will no longer be tolerated by anyone, anywhere, anytime, ever in Minnesota schools?
Problem solved, I’d say.
Sidenote: I imagine one Michele Bachmann rolled over in her crypt at the passage of this bill, which is a plus. Oh, no, I’m not saying Bachmann is dead, except from the neck up.