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Professor Walter Roberts Discusses Bullying Recommendations

Walter Roberts speaks with MPR about task force report.

Tim Post, Minneapolis Public Radio, 8-1-2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A state task force formed to look into the problem of bullying is recommending Minnesota scrap its current bullying law and replace it with a stronger anti-bullying statute.

Minnesota's Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying voted unanimously Monday to send its final recommendations to Gov. Mark Dayton.

After some last-minute editing, the report will hit Dayton's desk on Wednesday, Aug. 1, the task force's deadline.

The 45-page document, entitled "Safe and Supportive Schools," lays out several recommendations for how the state can combat bullying.

Most prominent is the report's suggestion that the state bolster its law regarding bullying. Minnesota's current law is considered weak, and at 37 words is one of the shortest in the nation. The law only requires that school districts have a written bullying policy, but does not offer guidance on how the policy should address the issue.

Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota's Commissioner of Education and one of the task force's 15 members, said it's up to the governor to decide how to use the recommendations.

"We're anxiously waiting to be able to share this report with the governor so that we can begin our next steps," Cassellius said.

The report's suggestions could make their way into future legislation, or policy changes at the state level.

Task force co-chair Walter Roberts Jr. said short of action by the governor, Minnesota school districts could implement changes based on the report's suggestions.

"There would be absolutely nothing in the world to prevent them from taking the document and enacting some of the pieces of what's relevant for them right now," Roberts said.

Some Minnesota school officials have expressed concern about the work and cost involved in fortifying the state's bullying policy. They fear the recommendations could turn into policy changes that amount to an unfunded mandate from the state.

For a look at some of the key suggestions in the task force's report, click on Minnesota Public Radio's website here

Minnesota Public Radio's Cathy Wurzer interviewed Roberts for MPR's Morning Edition. To listen, click here and then on the listen button on MPR's site.

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