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Officials and Residents Speak Up Against Anti-Bullying Bill

Created: 03/22/2014 10:58 PM KAALtv.com
By: Hannah Tran

(ABC 6 News) -- Local legislators and educators are now especially weighing in on the anti-bullying bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. It's now waiting to face the Senate floor. Before that happens, Representative Steve Drazkowski held a meeting in Zumbrota to hear what his constituents had to say.

"What does this proposal mean? Where does it come from?," said Drazkowski at the beginning of the town hall meeting. Minnesota's anti-bullying bill has sparked passionate responses from parents.

"Will it work in Minnesota?," asked Drazkowski.

Residents and educators questioned whether or not it will specifically work in their community. Zumbrota and Mazeppa schools superintendent Tony Simons says his current policies have been successful on their own.

"We've implemented an anti-bullying program and it's really going great for us," said Simons.

Residents at this meeting agreed that the bill is too much of a one size fits all approach. They want to maintain local authority, but some say the state needs to provide more of a foundational framework in policy to better guide school staff.

"It's up to the school to decide if it's going to be a strong policy school or if it's going to be a weak policy school, but a lot of them don't have the definition of bullying and that's where the problem really starts," said Vangie Castro. Castro is a youth program educator and helped define "bullying" in the bill.
 
Like Castro, proponents say it's hard to distinguish any guidelines to how bullying behaviors or incidents should be addressed. But implementing new policies under the mandate is seen as too costly for some school officials.

"Money is pretty tight in the Zumbrota and Mazeppa school district and we want all of their funds to go for student learning," said Simons.

However, bill proponents give a long term view in response to cost concerns.

"One out of three bullies usually end up having a criminal record by their early 20's. It's going to cost more if we don't try to be more effective," said Castro.

The bill will soon head to the Senate floor agenda. If it proceeds, it will go to the Governor's desk for a signature. 

Officials and residents speak against anti-bullying bill in the state capitol.