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The Senate Finance Committee passed the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act on Wednesday morning on a party line vote. The bill would strengthen Minnesota’s anti-bullying laws which are currently viewed as some of the weakest in the nation.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote. Finance committee members debated the cost of the bill, and made one significant change to the bill. An amendment by Sen. Sean Nienow, a Republican from Cambridge, deleted a portion of the bill that directs the Minnesota Department of Education to withhold state aid to schools that don’t comply with provisions of the bill.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said “We see in the news the way some kids are treated with the tacit support of community and political leadership.” Some schools “will resist making sure kids from some subgroup feel safe and supported in their community. Some schools will simply not comply” without enforcement tools from the Minnesota Department of Education.

That amendment passed with all Republicans on the committee voting for it and two DFLers crossing over in support.

The majority of the committee hearing was spent with Republicans criticizing the costs of the bill and DFLers noting how important stopping bullying is.

Dibble told the committee, “The reason for this bill is that we know bullying occurs far too often.”

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, called it an unfunded mandate.

Sen. Teri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, said, when she was a school board member, sge recalled a young man who took his own life after being bullied. “One reason to have a strong policy is because of lawsuits,” she said. “It’s cheaper than being in a lawsuit.”

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Andy Birkey
Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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