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Anti-bullying bill dies in Senate

MinnPost photo by James Nord
Sen. Scott Dibble, right, speaks with Rep. Jim Davnie after the Senate gay-marriage debate last week. Rep. Davnie was the lead House author of the anti-bullying legislation.

Not the least of the finger pointing that will accompany the 2013 Legislature’s final gavel will concern who killed the long-sought, comprehensive anti-bullying bill that at the start of the session appeared a shoo-in.

Was it Senate DFL leaders, who put off taking up the measure until quite literally the middle of the final night? Or was it their GOP counterparts, who threatened a 10-hour filibuster if the bill was not shelved?

Pulled in early morning

At about 2 a.m. this morning, Senate DFL leaders pulled the anti-bullying bill, saying they would try again for passage in 2014. 

OutFront Minnesota, which worked for months to secure passage of the bill, planned to go ahead with a rally in support to be held at the Capitol this morning at 10.

“So much for Republicans’ vows to refashion themselves as a more inclusive and ‘caring’ party in the aftermath of their last election’s shellacking,” the measure’s chief Senate author, Minneapolis’ Scott Dibble, posted to his Facebook page. “How does killing a bullying bill by threatening a 10-hour filibuster in the closing hours of the legislative session square with that?

“I assured Minority Leader David Hann [Eden Prairie], who delivered the threat to me personally, that we will pass every single word of this bill into law as soon as we return to the second half of this biennial session next February,” Dibble continued. “It is unconscionable to force Minnesota students to endure another year without the safety and support in their own schools that is their right.”

In a session dominated by big, contentious issues, the anti-bullying proposal stirred up a surprising amount of acrimony. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis lobbied against the measure and asked parishioners to do likewise.

Calling it an extension of the push for same-sex marriage, the church insisted that the law was an “Orwellian nightmare,” that would “usurp parental rights” and create “re-education camps.” Nor did specific language in the bill protecting students from religious harassment and recognizing their constitutional right to free religious speech satisfy critics.

Long, contentious debate

After a debate that surprisingly was longer and more contentious than the one over same-sex marriage, the House of Representatives passed an amended version that granted an exemption to private schools but allowed them to keep some $75 million a year in per-pupil state aid.

As the Legislature headed into its final two weeks, advocates began to fret as the House measure languished. With the clock running down, they became increasingly concerned that without enough time for a conference committee the Senate would be forced to adopt the compromise version.

Virtually no one anticipated the wholesale shelving of the measure, however.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 05/20/2013 - 10:16 am.

    Plenty of Blame to Go Around

    Yes, the DFL leadership should have brought this up MUCH sooner. However, if the Senate Republicans wish to “filibuster”–and I put that word in quotes since our legislative rules do not have that feature like the U.S. Senate–then they should stand up publicly, on camera, and say so and why.

    I would also suggest that every parent who has lost a child to to bullying-induced suicide to send a funeral card to every member of the Senate Republican caucus, starting with Senator Hann, to remind them what is at stake.,

  2. Submitted by Sara Fleets on 05/20/2013 - 12:16 pm.


    Regardless of when this bill was brought to the Senate floor, I have been searching my head, heart and soul to try and figure out what I would “filibuster” for if given the opportunity – if I was on “the other side”.

    All I have been able to come up with is something that attacked an individual’s human dignity. Ironic considering this bill was to help protect human dignity, dignity of children who are ridiculed and bullied.

    It is a shameful tactic.

  3. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 05/20/2013 - 01:07 pm.

    Are we surprised?

    The GOP stands up for bullying. What a shock. Guess they figure some kids are expendable, and hey, they’d probably grow up to vote Democratic anyway.

  4. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 05/20/2013 - 03:26 pm.


    I fear that this action is the beginning of a backlash to the marriage vote. Who can be opposed to protecting children from bullying so they are free to learn in school and survive their childhoods without scars from their classmates?

    Those of us who value the diversity in our community, who stand with our LGBT neighbors, and who understand the importance of giving unlimited opportunities to children with disabilities need to remain stalwart in the face of this backlash. Progressive steps taken by this legislature have discombobulated some Minnesotans and I fear they may lash out and bully in school and elsewhere in the state.

    I plan to be back at the legislature in February speaking for those who have been bullied in our state and with those who have defended them, but next time I plan to bring my flying monkeys too!

  5. Submitted by Jim Englert on 05/20/2013 - 11:49 pm.


    Might John Nienstedt’s opposition have been based on the fear that anti-bullying legislation might criminalize his style of episcopal governance?

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/21/2013 - 09:03 am.

    Half a loaf, and all that…

    The same sex marriage bill was almost certainly passed because the DFL leadership decided not to push on stricter gun control issues this session. Sorry that we couldn’t have both but it was a necessary decision. Those in more conservative districts will have a hard time surviving sticking out their necks once, let alone twice.

    The far right wing of the GOP has been pushing the idea that somehow the anti-bullying bill was going to lead to furtherance of the homosexual agenda in the public schools. Twitter is your friend. And the right wing of the GOP in the legislature perceived, correctly, that they could get away with stopping it by a philabluster this session.

    But just as with the same sex marriage issue, sometimes it takes a while for people to think things over. The anti-bullying measure will be back next session. And it will pass.

  7. Submitted by Barbara Skoglund on 05/21/2013 - 11:25 am.

    The biggest bullies in the state are the GOP and the Archdiocese

    Minnesota continues to have one of the weakest bulling laws in the state. My 13 year old was shocked when I told her the bill didn’t pass. She was so heavily bullied we had to pull her from a school in 5th grade. She asked why the bill didn’t pass and I explained that the GOP promised to talk so long that no business could get finished by the legislature in time for their last day. She said, “Isn’t that bulling?” When she asked why they thought stopping bulling was a bad thing I told her they said it was too expensive. She said, “It doesn’t cost anything for teachers to stand in the hall and watch kids and tell the bullies to stop.”

    Lucky for her we found Avalon Charter School this year. A 7-12 school with under 200 kids and a vocal and proud anti-bulling culture. Many Avalon kids were bullied out of other schools.

    ArchBully – I like it!

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