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Anti-bullying law sits well with local superindendent

With the implementation of new anti-bullying legislation slated to take effect in fall of 2014, Red Wing Public Schools Supt. Karsten Anderson said the timing could not have been better for the creation of the new director of support services within the district.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill late Wednesday, which requires schools to have bullying prevention policies and provides guidance about how they would be written.

The director of support services position, which Red Wing High School Principal Beth Borgen will step into in the fall, will allow for more focus on the impact of issues such as bullying, Anderson said, adding changes will need to be made to the district’s current bullying policy.

Anderson said the district is reviewing the policy and hopes to have revisions in front of the School Board by May or early June.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Davnie, D-Minneapolis, said the measure will let school districts write their own anti-bullying policies.

“Frankly, we’d rather that school districts engage their community and create new policy to limit bullying that we know is happening rather than use the state model policy that will be created with the passage of this bill," Davnie said, adding that the new law "sets a high standard for defining bullying."

Some lawmakers, however, are not pleased with the new bill, saying it takes decision making out of the hands of school districts.

But Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said the new law creates a "one-size-fits-all mandate."

“I trust the schools in our community to address bullying more effectively than politicians and bureaucrats in St. Paul," Franson said. "Instead of empowering local school districts, this bill infringes on the rights of students, parents and locally elected school boards."

Anderson said he was pleased with the progress of the bill through the legislative process and he feels educators’ voices were heard and concerns addressed.

Even with changes ahead, Anderson said he has no concerns surrounding the implementation of the new policy, adding the district has worked on adjustments in its policy and procedures over the last few years and this is just an extension of that work.

“I feel confident that we’ll be able to address the legislative changes effectively,” he said.

Red Wing schools are like most other schools in the state, Anderson said, and the district has seen some issues with harassment and bullying so it’s important to do whatever they can to prevent that type of behavior.

Red Wing’s bullying policy

Red Wing enacted its current bullying policy in May 2004 and was revised in June 2011.

The district dedicated six pages to the policy in its student/parent handbook, which can be found in its entirety on the district’s webpage:

District policy states:

Bullying means any written or verbal expression, physical act or gesture, or pattern thereof, by a student that is intended to cause or is perceived as causing distress to a student of a group of  students and which substantially interferes with another student’s or students’ education benefits, opportunities, or performance. Bullying includes, but is not limited to, conduct by a student against another student or group of students that a reasonable person under the circumstances knows or should know has the effect of:

1. Harming a student or a group of students

2. Damaging a student’s or group of students’ property

3. Placing a student or a group of students in reasonable fear of harm to person or property

4. Creating a hostile educational environment for a student or a group of students; or

5. Intimidating a student or group of students

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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