In more than 6 hours of debate on the Minnesota Senate floor about the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act on Thursday, Republicans never once mentioned their opposition to the bill was because it included protections for LGBT students. They waited to make those claims in emails to constituents.

The bill, which would strengthen Minnesota’s anti-bullying laws and provide guidance to school districts on how to prevent bullying, passed the Senate on Thursday and heads to the House for approval then to Gov. Mark Dayton who supports the measure.

During the 6 hour debate, Republicans leveled many criticisms at the bill: its cost, a perceived loss parental rights, and First Amendment concerns. But the fact that the bill also contained protections for LGBT students was never brought up. Instead of making those concerns public, several Republicans made those complains in email newsletters to constituents lambasting “lifestyles,” “protected classes,” and “special protection.”

Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, repeated the claims made by conservative Christian groups opposing the bill.

[sws_yellow_box box_size=”100″] Those who support this bill accuse those of us who are against it as opposing it only because we are ignorant or are arguing in bad faith. What has happened more often is that those who thought this bill was necessary for student protection have been surprised to learn of the many deficiencies this bill has and how massively it thrusts the power of state government into our local schools, having the potential to keep parents from being informed on many things concerning their children.

Also, it has the potential to force curriculum into our schools that is intent on influencing life style choices, etc. One example of curriculum of which I have been made aware is for ages 10 and up and includes cartoon style pictures of individuals in hetero and same sex situations performing sex acts. There is a warning on the outside of the materials that they could be in violation of certain state pornographic laws and yet they can be given our children. [/sws_yellow_box]

Sen. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo, listed several problems he had with the bill:
[sws_yellow_box box_size=”100″]- Emphasizes “preventative measures,” “valuing diversity,” and “sexual orientation, including gender identity and expression” making it likely that a controversial social agenda/curriculum will result.
– This policy is untested and has not been tried anywhere in the country. The list of enumerated classes of bullying conduct remains in the bill (i.e. “…color, creed…sexual orientation, including gender identity and expression…”). [/sws_yellow_box]

Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, called the bill “Orwellian”:
[sws_yellow_box box_size=”100″]The overall Orwellian nature of this legislation places it at the top as one of the worst pieces of legislation I have yet seen as a legislator. As I read the details of it, the phrase “social engineering” keeps nagging followed immediately by the question of whether certain students who do not fall into a newly created “protected class” will be equally protected. Whether those fears are well founded or not, this bill clearly identifies a very basic difference between the DFL and GOP political party tenants; with the former fully embracing big government and all that it can provide and the latter tenaciously, desperately hanging onto those core beliefs of limited government, individual opportunity and personal responsibility. Why those good people on the other side of the aisle from me are so willing to give up their individual freedoms in order to embrace an unnecessarily regulated and overly protected lifestyle continues to baffle me. Perhaps they have forgotten the warnings outlined by George Orwell in his prescient novel 1984. Maybe we should all go back and re-read it.[/sws_yellow_box]

Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, lamented the inclusion of 19 different characteristics of students that are commonly the victims of bullying. Among those characteristics are sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and socioeconomic status.

[sws_yellow_box box_size=”100″]Amongst the most controversial aspects of the bill is its presumption that school employees, rather than parents, will be the first-line moral guides, protectors and disciplinarians of school-aged children. Under the bill if/when a school employee believes a child has been bullied or is bullying, school officials will decide whether and when to inform the child’s parent — or not. Due to provisions such as these, the bill failed to win the support of the the Minnesota School Board Association.

A list of demographic groups who will receive special protection under the law
raising concerns that students who don’t fall under one of these categories will not be equally protected. [/sws_yellow_box]

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