MN anti-bullying bill could have unintended consequences

Part 88 of 87 in the series Educating America

By Mary C. Tillotson |

Minnesota’s Senate recently passed an anti-bullying bill, which has opponents concerned about unintended consequences.

The bill, proposed in response to a large number of bullying-related suicides in the state, would make it illegal for students to bully other students for certain reasons spelled out in the bill.

“The worry is that some students will be living in fear of misspeaking. It’s one of those things that seems well-intended, but we don’t know how it could possibly be abused,” said Chris D. of Choice Media.

“Once you start carving out you really can’t bully for this reason, and you really can’t bully for this other reason, then you’ll be endlessly carving out new reasons you can’t bully people for,” Bob Bowden, executive director of Choice Media, said. “One 13-year-old is stealing lunch money from another 13-year-old, and there’s a legislator in the state capital who’s going to make sure that that stops? I don’t know what these laws do quite frankly.”

Bowden and guest Erik Telford, senior vice president of the Franklin Center for Public Integrity, said school choice laws would allow schools to make their own common-sense responses to bullying, tailored to their individual schools and school environments.

Top-down approaches are unlikely to work well, they said. Bowden said it would be difficult for a blanket policy to cover the entire problem.

“Will there be new provisions to stop bullying people with acne, and another one to stop bullying people who are short, and another one to stop bullying people who talk in an accent?” Bowden said. “It could go on forever.”

Choice Media discussed other education issues with Telford, including a push by Pennsylvania teachers to keep seniority rules, Georgia parents suing the state over a private school scholarship program and Newark students permitted to skip classes to attend a union-organized protest against increasing charter school funding.

Contact Mary C. Tillotson at