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Guest Post: Four years ago, I stood next to Governor Dayton as he signed the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act

April 9, 2018

C:\Users\ebisek\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Word\H- Bullying Bill Signing Jake Ross Governor Dayton.jpg

By Guest Writer: Jake Ross, sophomore at Forest Lake Senior High School and safe schools advocate 6

Four years ago, on April 9, 2014, Minnesota student Jake Ross stood beside Governor Mark Dayton as he signed the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act into law. The 11 year old had spent two years advocating for the anti-bullying law. After being bullied in second grade, Jake wanted to help schools learn to better address school climate and bullying. Jake began pushing lawmakers to pass the anti-bullying law. He testified before legislative committees and repeatedly told his story until the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act became law. The law created the School Safety Technical Assistance Council, and Jake was appointed as a student member in 2014. To mark the fourth anniversary of the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act signing, Jake reflects on the importance of the law in this guest blog.

The passage of the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act was really important to me. I was the target of repeated bullying throughout my second-grade year in school. The bullying that happened to me included physical harm, verbal threats, stealing, and intimidation. I was hit regularly, pushed around, my belongings were taken from me. I was called names. I was attacked and repeatedly pushed to the ground at recess, and they threatened me saying, “I’m going to kill you if you tell anyone!”

The bullying was not stopped, because the school I attended at the time did not have a comprehensive anti-bullying policy or any specific procedures for what to do if bullying occurred. Minnesota’s old anti-bullying law did not require these. Eventually, I had to leave this school.

Later, I became involved with advocating for the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, which provides a much more comprehensive approach to bullying prevention than Minnesota’s previous law.

The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act is important because it brings awareness to the problem of bullying. Bullying affects the individual student being bullied, and other students. It also impacts school climate and student learning. The law I advocated for requires schools to have a comprehensive anti-bullying policy, and encourages schools to use evidence-based measures to address bullying. The law requires schools to have a clear policy for reporting bullying as well as steps school staff must take when bullying occurs. The law also provides enumerated protection for students that research has shown are at a higher risk of being bullied. The law established the School Safety Technical Assistance Center at the Minnesota Department of Education, which is so important because the center provides assistance to schools and evidence-based resources that will help schools to more effectively prevent and deal with bullying.

As a member of the School Safety Technical Assistance Council, I continue my work to make sure schools in our state are safe and welcoming for all students. And, I always want to help students who are being bullied. I have advice for students who are targets of bullying.

If you are being bullied, know that bullying is not your fault and it should not be happening. Talk to an adult you trust and report the bullying. You matter and there are people who care about you.

Too often, people experiencing bullying are told that they need to tough it out or get over it. No, that’s not right. Bullying isn’t something that can be ignored; it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Under the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, Minnesota schools are required to have a process in place for students to report bullying and schools must investigate the bullying, protect the student who was bullied and do something to address it.

Because of the law, schools are making progress against bullying and have a place to turn to for help – the School Safety Technical Assistance Center at the Minnesota Department of Educations. The center provides schools with assistance and has developed the tools, guidance and resources schools need to address bullying and improve school climate for all students.