Controversial Bullying Bill Clears Senate Committee

Updated: 03/12/2014 6:58 AM By: Leslie Dyste

A controversial anti-bullying bill was passed by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. It raises some questions on who exactly the new law would protect. 

Supporters say the bill will turn Minnesota's current bullying law - one of the nation's weakest - into one of the strongest, with clear definitions of bullying, training for students and staff, and specific procedures for bullying incidents. Others say the bill wouldn't protect all children from bullying.

A KSTP crew was at the hearing Tuesday afternoon where even victims of bullying themselves didn't seem to agree on the bill.

Katie Trosvik of Ham Lake described how her 12-year-old son ended his life. "He went outside saying he had a project for school... he cut the rope off the sled, he stepped on a toy riding tractor, he stood on the ledge, took the rope and he hung himself," she said.

Jae Bates, a Hopkins High School senior who attempted suicide, said he was the victim of name calling for most of his childhood. "Kids used to call me a chink and they would yell chink from down the hall. They used to bump into me and tell me to open my eyes," he recalled.

Trosvik and Bates are two victims who don't agree on whether a new state anti-bullying law is a good idea.

Jae now counsels others and says the bill could save lives, "I graduate this year, and I don't want other kids to have to attempt or commit suicide."

But Trosvik says it wouldn't have protected her son because the bill puts bullying victims in categories that her son wouldn't have fit in. "I oppose this bill because it does not protect other children like Tom, who are bullied because they are just quirky," she said.

But the bill's author, Sen. Scott Dibble, disagrees. "We're very clear that this bill is protecting all kids from the effects and harm of bullying."

The bill now moves to the Finance Committee and ultimately to the Senate floor.