Anti-bullying law heading for state Senate vote

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A measure that would strengthen the state's anti-bullying law is headed for a vote in the state Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill today by a vote of 12 to 9.

The bill's author, state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said it would require districts to better train staff on how spot and prevent bullying.

"Literally thousands and thousands of young people in our state today stay home from school because they're afraid to go to school because of how they're treated there," Dibble said.

If passed, the new anti-bullying measure would require about $1 million in state funding a year.

A state Management and Budget Office report produced last year concluded that local districts could spend $40 million of their own money implementing the new law.

That prompted Republican lawmakers to label it an unfunded mandate.

"There is no funding in this bill to cover that $40 million of cost," said State Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge. "This bill provides no mechanism to cover that local cost."

Dibble disputes that estimate. He said schools are already doing much of what's required in the measure.

Before passing the bill, the committee approved an amendment that removes the state commissioner of education's ability to withhold state funding from districts that don't implement measures spelled out in the anti-bullying effort.

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