With Saturday’s veto, Governor Pawlenty sided with conservative opponents of an anti-bullying bill meant to protect Minnesota’s K-12 students from being harassed in school for their sexual orientation, disabilities, and an array of other qualities that routinely attract teasing. Repeating an argument used by the Minnesota Family Council, the governor wrote “the proposed legislation is duplicative of current law which directly and clearly prohibits bullying of any type against any student for any reason.”
As I highlighted in a story for the Minnesota Independent in February, the state’s current “model policy” only protects students from teasing based on race or religion, and sexual harassment. Although it can be interpreted to include all students, many say this relies on a principal taking a stand against other forms of bullying that aren’t specifically prohibited.
“In small towns, it can all depend on one teacher or a principal who makes it their mission” to make the school welcoming, says Leigh Combs, the LGBT Kids Abuse and Prevention coordinator at Minneapolis-based Family and Children’s Service. “It’s different from town to town.”
The bill’s author, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the governor’s action and said he thought he had reached a compromise with Pawlenty on the language of the bill.
The “Safe Schools for All Bill” is passed the Minnesota House and Senate with large margins, so it remains a possibility that the bill’s backers will re-introduce the bill next session, and override Pawlenty’s veto.