Today (9 April) Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed an anti-bullying law that specifically includes LGBT students.
The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act requires school districts to train staff on how to recognize and prevent bullying.
Prevention programs are to be implemented, and districts must focus more on changing behavior as opposed to punishment.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLESN) hailed the new law.
‘Victory in Minnesota,’ the group wrote on its Facebook page. ‘With Governor Mark Dayton’s signature moments ago, Minnesota became the 16th state, plus [Washington] DC to enact an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law.’
According to the Pioneer Press, the bill comes from a task force Dayton formed in 2012 to study the issue.
‘Nobody in this state or this nation should have to feel bad about themselves for being who they are,’ the governor said in a speech after the signing ceremony, as reported by the Pioneer Press.
The bill was debated in the House and Senate on 8 April, and was passed without Republican support.
According to the Star Tribune, some critics worried the law removed local control. Others quoted George Orwell’s novel 1984 and voiced worries over fascism.
Jake Ross, an 11-year-old student who lobbied for the bill’s passage, spoke at the ceremony. As reported by the Tribune, he described himself as a Christian and Boy Scout.
When he was seven the student faced bullies, who beat and threatened to kill him. Because his school had no policies to protect him, he transferred.
‘Today marks the beginning of a change in thinking about bullying,’ the 11-year old said. ‘I am very happy for this day.’