Problems with state Bullying bill

To the editor:

I would like to express deep concern over a couple of proposed bills that are making their way through the state legislature.

One of them, HF826/SF783, the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act,” while it has a noble purpose against bullying (a legitimate problem in our schools), singles out certain “protected classes” of students – including sexual orientation and “gender identity and expression” – for special attention and favored treatment, and encourages curriculum and programming that will, more than likely, usurp the rights of parents as first educators of their children.

The bill tries to guarantee select groups of students a “safe and supportive learning environment” (dangerously undefined) by prohibiting any words a student could arguably view as “interfering” with her “educational performance.” Schools would have to supposedly enforce this, putting an undo amount of authority and burdensome administrative responsibility on them.

These are some of the concerns that I have read:

The bill would compel schools to police cell phone activity, texting and “cyber-bullying,” including comments a student writes on their Facebook page.

Equally problematic, the bill would prohibit conduct that creates “a real or perceived imbalance of power between students,” along with conduct that violates “the reasonable expectation of privacy” of any student. Courts would have trouble applying these standards, let alone school officials.

The bill also appears to withhold due process of law from students accused of bullying. It requires schools to investigate anonymous accusations and does not give students the right to confront their accusers. Paradoxically, it would permit students to harass one another by making unsubstantiated charges of misconduct with little or no accountability.

One of the bill’s most chilling aspects is that students who dissent from certain state-approved cultural/political attitudes could potentially be referred to “counseling” by school authorities for failing to sufficiently “value diversity.”

We ask – how would courts or school officials enforce this? How would you stop envious/jealous students from making false charges when there is no price to pay, because they can be anonymous. This bill amounts to state-sponsored “thought control”. And on top of all of this, the bill’s proponents want to require private schools to follow the mandates of the law as well. This will go against 1st amendment rights to religious freedom, as we will not be allowed to teach the tenants of our faith without fear of loss of needed funding, and even face possible legal charges.

The other bill that is very disconcerting is the HF291/SF370, which would allow surrogacy agreements to be used as evidence in custody proceedings. Passage of this law would signal to courts that these are, in fact, legitimate and enforceable contracts, which would in effect then legalize the surrogacy business in Minnesota. Even the very liberal National Organization for Women has stated that such an action would lead to the exploitation of women and the commodification of children, denying them their right to be connected to their biological parents. Pro-family groups and churches, have long opposed this unethical practice.

How can our great state of Minnesota even be considering legislative actions such as these? The Safe and Supportive School Act, while sounding well-meaning, is very ill-conceived, and badly worded! Surrogacy agreements have no place in our society, if you wish to protect women and children! We urge you to strongly oppose these measures, by contacting your legislators and Governor Dayton immediately, and letting them know your concerns.

Bernadette Berger


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