July 8 – Barnes & Noble in Albany, NY
July 11 – Barnes & Noble in Apple Valley, MN
July 15 – An Open Book in Wadena, MN
Click on the link below (Trouble with Bullies Podcast) and it will open PowerPoint. Then simply open the PowerPoint in slideshow which is at the top of the page. Then on the left top you’ll see “From the Beginning.” Click on that and it will open the PowerPoint. Then click on the icon in the center of the page (that may be a little hard to see, so look carefully!). Let me know what you think in your comments below. There are three different people interviewed on this podcast but mine is the first.
“Trouble with Bullies”; by Gail Ann Wisdom
What Works To Prevent Bullying
To really stop bullying, schools need to focus on changing their school climate, i.e. the social norms and values of the school, so that bullying is no longer acceptable to staff or to students, said Willard. That means getting the kids involved.
One option is setting up focus groups of students who can come up with recommendations for what administrators, teachers and other students can do to change the climate of the school so it no longer tolerates bullying.
The focus groups are having an effect in the Anoka-Hennepin school district near Minneapolis, which, as the result of a lawsuit settlement, is operating under a five-year consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education to change its school climate.
In 2010, after several students committed suicide, the two federal departments began a civil rights investigation into complaints that students had been bullied based on their sexual orientation. In 2011, six students filed a lawsuit against the district for not responding to their complaints about bullying based on sexual orientation.
The district had a policy requiring staff to remain neutral when discussions of sexual orientation came up in the classroom, which the students argued this was essentially a gag order preventing teachers from stopping anti-gay bullying.
Now, under direction from the federal agencies, teachers and administrators are being trained to stop bullying and get feedback from students on how well they’re doing. The climate’s definitely changed, said Ann Lindsey, a teacher at Jackson Middle School who initially reported the discrimination facing gay students in the district.
“I’m thrilled to say students can walk through the halls and feel safe,” Lindsey said in an interview with the Pioneer Press in St. Paul. “The mood is much brighter; the (gay) slurs have decreased.”
The Safe and Supportive Schools Act replaced a 37-word anti-bullying law that was widely considered one of the nation’s weakest. Its passage came almost three years after the state’s largest was hit with a lawsuit that accused it of failing to protect students from being bullied.
“Nobody in this state or nation should have to feel bad about themselves for being who they are,” Dayton said. “This law says, ‘Not in Minnesota.’ ”
For more than two years, legislators have been battling over the measure’s language, details and philosophy. Opponents argued that it was too prescriptive and would take away control from local officials who know their schools best.
The law requires to track and investigate cases of bullying and to better train staffers and teachers on how to prevent it. Some Minnesota school leaders still have lingering concerns about how much it will cost to implement the new law, while others — particularly in rural Minnesota — still wonder whether it was needed at all.
But most administrators said Wednesday that the law is simply the right thing to do.
“This debate is all too familiar to me,” said Dennis Carlson, superintendent of the Anoka-Hennepin district, where bullying has been a major issue for some time and which was sued. “But my point has always been that we have to put the welfare of students ahead of all the political rhetoric.”
Minnesota’s anti-bullying laws are no longer the weakest in the nation, but the bill signed into law is not as strong as its original incarnation.
A number of provisions in earlier versions were taken out to appease groups such as the Association of Metropolitan School Districts and the Minnesota School Boards Association. The final bill no longer requires schools to keep and report it, and they won’t be subject to mandatory training of volunteers.
Districts will not have to adopt the state’s model policy unless they decline to devise one of their own. Many already have anti-bullying policies in place.
“We are really doing a great deal and plan on doing more to make sure all of our student feel safe and secure,” said Ryan Vernosh, administrator of St. Paul public schools’ strategic planning and policy efforts. “We really don’t anticipate a change in course.”
Toward the end of the past decade a number of states passed legislation to crack down on bullying, but Minnesota activists were dealt a major setback in 2009 when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed an anti-bullying measure.
Around that time, activists’ passions were ignited by a series of high-profile incidents of alleged bullying and suicides among students in the Anoka-Hennepin district, a situation that ultimately resulted in intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice. That led to a legal settlement that forced the state’s largest district to get more involved in policing harassment against students.
While Carlson said he supports the new law, some of his district’s school board members have lingering concerns about how much it will cost to implement. Cost estimates for statewide implementation have ranged between $5 million and $25 million.
“Our board is still not happy with it because they feel like it is an unfunded mandate,” he said. “For many school districts, that remains an issue.”
“The issue is not as salient in our schools as it is for many metro schools,” he said. “Many felt as though it was a solution looking for a problem.”
Bill ‘American as … can be’
During the nearly 12-hour debate on the Minnesota House floor Tuesday night, some Republicans said the bullying measure smacked of fascism, and others said it would create a totalitarian society like the one described in George Orwell’s book “1984.”
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said he believes the law will do little to prevent bullying. He spoke more favorably of a spanking he once got as a child from a bus driver for bullying another child.
“The point is, it corrected the problem,” he said of the incident. “I didn’t have to go to counseling, therapy, or sue the bus driver. It was over.”
Dayton said that while much of the debate was heartfelt from both sides of the aisle, he believes some comments were out of line.
“The First Amendment guarantees free speech. But it doesn’t distinguish between intelligent speech and unintelligent speech,” Dayton said to applause. “This bill is American as any bill can be.”
The governor was flanked by children who had written to lawmakers, testified before the Legislature and spoken out about their support for the law. Among them was Jake Ross, 11, of Forest Lake, who introduced himself as a Boy Scout and a Christian.
“Today marks the beginning of a change in thinking about bullying,” Jake said. “I am very happy for this day.”
He said his school lacked policies to protect him and that he ended up transferring to another. Now, he said, he wishes to tell other bullied children that he understands their struggles.
“I wish you freedom from your pain,” he said.
Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-4469 email@example.com • 651-925-5046