Support the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act

Jake Ross testifies before the Senate Education Committee on March 5. (Photo submitted)

Jake Ross testifies before the Senate Education Committee on March 5. (Photo submitted)

 

Jake Ross
Guest Writer

I am a fifth-grade student and I support the new anti-bullying bill, “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act,” which is going through the legislative process at the Minnesota State Capitol. I have been involved in helping to pass this anti-bullying bill by lobbying and testifying in favor of this bill.

According to the 2011 United States Department of Education report, Minnesota’s current anti-bullying law is the weakest in the nation. But the new Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act when put into law will take our states law from being the weakest – to being one of the strongest anti-bullying school laws in the United States.

The 2010 Minnesota Student Survey found that 13 percent of students were bullied regularly, once a week or more. If that held for the state’s entire student population, it would mean more than 100,000 students in Minnesota are bullied on a regular basis.

I was the target of ongoing and repeated bullying three years ago when I was in second grade at the elementary school I then attended (not part of the Forest Lake School District.) The bullying that happened to me included: physical harm, verbal threats, stealing, and intimidation. I was hit regularly, pushed around, my belongings were taken from me, I was attacked and readily pushed to the ground at recess, and threats of “I’m going to kill you if you tell anyone!” were made against me. After all this happened to me, I left this school at the end of second grade in hopes of finding a school that would provide a safe learning environment for me.

I now go to Scandia Elementary School, and I feel much safer here. Scandia Elementary School has the Olewus Bullying Prevention Program which I feel helps prevent bullying.

At the Minnesota State Capitol, on Feb. 28, I testified at the Minnesota House of Representatives – Education Policy Committee, and then on March 5, I testified at the Minnesota Senate Education Committee.  At these committee hearings I told my personal story of being the target of ongoing and severe bullying three years ago, and I asked for their support of the new anti-bullying bill.

The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act is a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that will require all schools in Minnesota to have anti-bullying policy that includes: (1) clear definitions of bullying, harassment, and intimidation; (2) enumerated protection for students most likely to be bullied or harassed; (3) training and resources for students, staff, and volunteers on bullying prevention and interventions; (4) specific procedures school staff must follow when bullying is reported.

I have shared my personal story of having been the target of bullying so that our state’s legislators will vote in favor of the new anti-bullying bill. When this bill passes and becomes law, all students in Minnesota will be protected from bullying. I want to help protect students in Minnesota from bullying because I know what it’s like, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone.

I encourage you to contact your legislators and tell them you support the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act.

Forest Lake is District 39. Bob Dettmer is our District 39A Minnesota House Representative (651-296-4124, rep.bob.dettmer@house.mn) Karin Housley is our District 39 Minnesota Senator (651-296-4351, sen.karin.housley@senate.mn). To find out who your state legislators are, go to www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts.

I thank you for sharing in the support of this anti-bullying bill.

Jake Ross is a 10-year-old from Forest Lake.

  • http://forestlaketimes.com Jake Ross

    Thank You, Forest Lake Times, for including this article about Supporting the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, in our community’s newspaper. I hope that this will bring awareness to the issue of bullying and increase support for this new anti-bullying bill currently making it’s way through the MN State Capitol legislative committee’s. When the Safe and Supportive Minnesota School Act passes the final House of Representatives and Senate floor votes in May, it will become law – then all students in Minnesota will be protected by one of the strongest anti-bullying policy’s in the U.S.. I encourage you to contact your legislators to ask for their support of this new anti-bullying bill (see end of article for legislator contact information.) Thank You !

  • Joyce Crawford

    The piece of the puzzle missing is the part of the legislation that demands that the bully and the parents of the bully. They must have specific requirements just as the schools must meet specific requirements. Schools will never be successful unless the bully and parents are held accountable.

  • http://forestlaketimes.com Melanie Ross

    I would also like to say “Thank You” to The Forest Lake Times Newspaper for printing this Guest Columnist article. My son, Jake, has gone from being a target of bullying to now being an advocate for bullying prevention. His experiences at the MN State Capitol testifying to our State’s Legislators has been healing and empowering for Jake. I am so very proud of my son for his courage in explaining the pain he went through when he was bullied, and for speaking directly to our State’s legislators and asking for their support for the new anti-bullying bill. Jake told the legislators during his testimony, “I want to help protect students in Minnesota from bullying because I know what it’s like, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone.”

    Parents and students who are looking for information about bullying, help in knowing what do do about bullying, how to report bullying to schools, and other information about bullying and it’s prevention, I recommend the following resources :

    http://www.jeremiahshopeforkindness.org
    PACER.org/Bullying
    stopbullying.gov

    Each of these websites include information for parents, kids, and teens, about help with bullying. There are many other resources for information also available.

    Along with my son, I am also an advocate for bullying prevention. My background is in prevention and health education. I can be contacted for further information about bullying prevention : Melanie.Ross@Yahoo.com
    I wish you Peace.

  • http://forestlaketimes.com Melanie Ross

    This is a reply to the response by Joyce Crawford, regarding holding the bully and parents accountable in regards to bullying prevention and the new anti-bullying bill :

    The “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” also has written into this comprehensive bill the use of “remedial responses that emphasize restorative justice to correct prohibited behavior”. — This use of formative discipline does address the student who is doing the bullying behavior. Remedial responses are used to correct student behavior and works to prevent the bullying student from continuing this harmful behavior. Nancy Riestenberg, School Climate Specialist for the MN Department of Education, and member of Governor Dayton’s Bullying Prevention Task Force – recommends the restorative justice model when dealing with incidents of bullying. The restorative justice model brings together all who have been affected by the bullying : the target, the target’s family, the bully, the bully’s family (which includes the bully’s parents/caregivers), the witness, and others who have been affected and harmed by the bullying. All affected and harmed are given the chance to share how the bullying harmed them, the target is given a voice with support from those who they trust, the bully is able to see how their actions affected all those involved, and the bully is then able to correct the harm that was done. This process of restorative justice allows “healing within the community that was harmed” to occur. — In this restorative justice model the bully and their parent/caregiver(s) are directly involved. The new anti-bullying bill, which is a comprehensive prevention model, does include the “use of such remedial responses that emphasize restorative justice to correct bullying behaviors.”
    Hope this helps in answering the question about including the bully and their parent/caregiver(s) in solving the problem of bullying.

  • Rob R

    This bill gives “enumerated protection for students most likely to be bullied or harassed”, but what about students not likely to be bullied or harassed? Do they have protection too? Why not extend enumeration to all who are bullied? This suggests that it creates a special protected class of student rather than protecting all students in class.

    • Sonya

      Rob- Research shows that when the groups who are most likely to be bullied are protected by enumeration, bullying in the school goes down in general. This is not creating a special class because if you read the bill, you would see that it is not limited to the groups that are enumerated.

  • Katrina Plotz

    Research has documented that kids with certain characteristics are bullied more often than other kids. Research also demonstrates that kids report that feeling safer and teachers intervening more effectively under an enumerated policy (one that names specific characteristics) than under a vague policy that does not enumerate. Enumeration doesn’t create special “protected classes” for some, while leaving out other kids. It acknowledges that certain factors like being gay, overweight, or having a disability make some kids more likely to be bullied.

    The Safe & Supportive Minnesota Schools Act enumerates a comprehensive list of protections, making it explicitly clear that bullying based on “race, color, creed, religion, disability, sex, age, national origin, immigration status, marital status, family status, socioeconomic status, status with regard to public assistance, academic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression” is prohibited.

    In case that doesn’t seem to cover everyone, the bill also includes language making it clear that bullying for any reason is unacceptable. The legislation is supported by a coalition of over 80 organizations and will help MN go from having the weakest anti-bullying law in the country to having one of the strongest. Thanks for writing this article and for testifying at the Capitol Jake!

  • http://forestlaketimes.com Melanie Ross

    Thank You, Katrina Plotz, for explaining so well the reasons why enumeration is an important part of comprehensive bullying prevention policy.
    This new anti-bullying bill was written based on recommendations from Governor Dayton’s Bullying Prevention Task Force. Members of this Task Force are leaders and experts in the field of Prevention, Health, and Safety. I have the honor of knowing one member of this Task Force, Nancy Riestenberg. Nancy Riestenberg, School Climate Specialist for the MN Department of Education, is a known as a leader in the U.S., and outside the U.S., in the field of harm reduction, violence prevention, and youth development through restorative measures in schools. The other members of the Bullying Prevention Task Force are also experts. The members of the Task Force reviewed research, listened to other experts in the field, and spent much time listening to students, parents, educators, and community members from around our State during community forums explain issues they have experienced in regards to bullying. All this information, research, and citizen input, was used to write the recommendations that are a part of this new anti-bullying bill.
    Then Senator Dibble and Representative Davnie used these expert recommendations to write up the details of the bill. It is very well thought out, very well researched, and comprehensive. As a parent, health educator, and advocate for peace, I am so Thankful to the many people who worked so hard to create this policy that will protect all students in Minnesota from the harm of bullying (peer abuse) and support safe school environments where all students can reach their full potential.

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