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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signs a bill into law Wednesday, April 9, 2014, that requires schools to have anti-bullying policies. In a ceremony outside the Capitol, he was joined by the bill's authors Rep. Jim Davnie (center right) and Sen. Scott Dibble (right), student advocate Jake Ross (left) and other students, teachers, parents and supporters. (Governor's office photo)

Kent hails bullying-bill passage as 'major step forward'

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ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton put pen on paper 15 hours after final legislative approval of an anti-bullying bill, enacting a new law requiring schools to have bullying prevention policies and providing guidance about how they would be written.

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Dayton signed the bill late Wednesday afternoon in front of many legislators and dozens of the bill's other supporters.

"Nobody in this state or this nation should have to feel bad about who they are," Dayton said.

The House passed the bill 69-63 early Wednesday, following nearly 12 hours of debate. Senators passed it earlier.

Sen. Susan Kent, D-Woodbury, attended Dayton's signing ceremony outside the Capitol. She has been among the bill's most ardent supporters in the face of critics who have panned the bill as governmental overreach into schools.

“As legislators, it is our job to ensure that our students feel safe at school, and the Safe and Supportive Schools Act opens the doors to do just that," Kent said in a statement. "This is a major step forward for our state, and I take pride in knowing that together we have truly made a difference in the lives of Minnesota students.”

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."

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."

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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