Thursday, February 26, 2009

Help Make Minnesota's Schools Safer!

We would like to give a special shout out to our friends in Minnesota who want to make sure that all students are safe in school.

Although Minnesota has had good safe school policy in the past the new law will bring school policy in line with the strong and comprehensive state anti-discrimination laws which include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Clear and strong implementation language will help reinforce the training and education necessary for a bill like this to take root in the school community.

“The Safe Schools for All” (SF 971) was introduced by State Senators Dibble, Wiger, Rummel and Saxhaug . The state’s powerful teachers union, Education Minnesota has already expressed support for this bill. Our friend and coalition partners Rainbow Families and MinnesotaOUT Front played an important role in making sure this happened – thank you!

Take some time right now and do three things to ensure safe schools for all young people in Minnesota!

· Call your Senator Today! Call your legislators and ask them to support the bill. You can find out who your legislators are by clicking on this link. (If the senators listed above represent you, please contact them and thank them – it goes a long way!). Be sure to tell your senator:

"I support SF 971 because I believe schools should be safe for all students and families. Please vote yes on SF 971. This bill is an important step for Minnesota to provide a safe learning environment for our young people by prohibiting bullying and harassment."

· Share Your Stories! If you have a relevant story about bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools – big or small – and let us know. These stories will help us pass this bill. Your legislators will want to see and hear how enacting this bill will correct current and past wrongs. Your experience just might convince the final legislator to vote for our families’ needs.

· Forward our blog! Tell your friends and family about this bill. Call them up and/or email this blog write-up to them. Encourage them to contact their legislators with the same message above.

Talking Points

· Importance of Enumeration. Minnesota does not list enumerated categories in their state anti-bullying law, but bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression is prohibited by their nondiscrimination law, which covers educational institutions. This legislation strengthens the state’s anti-bullying law by adding enumerated categories including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

· Enumerated language alone is insufficient. If specific enumerated categories are listed the state’s anti-bullying policy, then it would be easier to conduct training and education about these groups of people for students, teachers and faculty. This is an important part of the follow up that schools must do after the law is enacted, and it provides an opportunity for groups like PFLAG to provide education and training.

· Leading the way. Nine states and the nation’s capital along with many municipalities have already enacted anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. These states and jurisdictions include California, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. It is essential for local districts’ school boards, PTA’s, school administrators, and students to work together and follow-in the footsteps of these leaders by enacting similar laws that will inevitably build safer schools for all.

Let us Know!

Please take action today to jumpstart our efforts, and let us know how your call went. We’ll be sure to update here on the blog, and encourage you all to remain active up until the enactment of this bill.

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