ST.PAUL, MN, March 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – Homosexual activists in Minnesota are pushing for a broad “Safe and Supportive Schools Act” that would outlaw speech that could interfere with a student's ability “to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment.” The bill is being promoted as the strongest “anti-bullying” law in the nation, but critics say it could have a chilling effect on free speech, especially in religious schools that teach Christian beliefs on sexuality.
“We agree … that school bullying is a serious issue that needs to be ameliorated,” said Pete Noll, education director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, testifying before the state legislature. “All children are entitled to a safe, secure learning environment.” But he disagreed that the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act” should apply to religious schools.
The bill, as written, would apply not only to public schools, but also to private schools that receive resources of any kind from the state. As Noll reminded the legislature last Tuesday, although Catholic and other religious schools are forbidden to receive state funding, many of their students receive textbooks, testing and other services from the state. He said he worried this might be used as justification to freeze speech in private religious schools.
“Combating bullying should never be a pretext to impose an agenda of groups of people, or to undermine the rights of parents to bestow their religious or moral values on their children,” the Catholic conference wrote in a statement.
The bill was introduced by state senator Scott Dibble, an open homosexual who “married” his partner in California before the passage of Proposition 8 (their marriage is not recognized by the state of Minnesota). He announced the bill’s introduction in a guest post for the homosexual “Human Rights Campaign” website and thanked the group for their support. He also credited gay activist group Outfront Minnesota for its role in the development of the bill, saying that the group “leads this work” and is “poised to push for a positive vote.”
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A similar bill was introduced during the 2009 legislative session and passed both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins, but it was vetoed by then-Governor Tim Pawlenty. If it passes this year, Governor Mark Dayton, who helped to write the bill, is expected to sign.
Dibble celebrated Dayton’s support. “Without [Dayton’s] leadership, I’m not sure we’d be able to make today’s announcement—with such bright prospects for passage in just a few weeks’ time,” Dibble said.
The “Safe and Supportive Schools Act” defines bullying as:
…use of one or a series of words, images, or actions, transmitted directly or indirectly between individuals or through technology, that a reasonable person knows or should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of interfering with the ability of an individual, including a student who observes the conduct, to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment. Examples of bullying may include, but are not limited to, conduct that:
1. places an individual in reasonable fear of harm to person or property, including through intimidation;
2. has a detrimental effect on the physical, social, or emotional health of a student;
3. interferes with a student’s educational performance or ability to participate in educational opportunities;
4. encourages the deliberate exclusion of a student from a school service, activity, or privilege;
5. creates or exacerbates a real or perceived imbalance of power between students;
6. violates the reasonable expectation of privacy of one or more individuals; or
7. relates to the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, age, or any additional characteristic defined in chapter 363A of a person or of a person with whom that person associates, but the conduct does not rise to the level of harassment.