The 2012 elections placed Minnesota in the hands of a Democratic governor in conjunction with a Democratic legislature for the first time in a generation. Republican governors and legislators have prevented a lot of damage to the state that would otherwise have taken place. The state’s Democrats now mean to satisfy the pent-up demand to give it to us good and hard. They have big plans for us. In her biweekly Star Tribune column our friend Katherine Kersten reports on one development and raises a red flag:
[E]very Minnesotan with a child in public or private school should understand that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Antibullying legislation is coming early in the session; its final shape is unknown. But the legislative goalposts were set in August 2012 by Gov. Mark Dayton’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying, whose report announced recommendations on the shape a new law should take.
The task force called for throwing out Minnesota’s current, “local control” antibullying law — which requires every school board to adopt a written policy “prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student” — and replacing it with a sweeping new statewide antibullying regime administered from St. Paul.
That regime would include an expansive new definition of bullying; a comprehensive, mandatory antibullying policy for all public and private schools; “multi-cultural/anti-bias” education for all pre-K-12 students and annual training in antibullying strategies for all teachers, school staff and volunteers; the promotion of “values, attitudes and behaviors” that “understand the nature of human sexuality,” and a new “school climate center” at the Minnesota Department of Education.
Kathy adds the following telling details by way of background:
The campaign for antibullying legislation is driven not by a dramatic escalation in bullying but by a crusade to use the power of the state to shape your 10-year-old’s attitudes and beliefs about sexuality and family structure. The drive is being led by OutFront Minnesota — the state’s most prominent LGBT group, whose legal director was a member of the governor’s task force and whose executive director also directs the “Safe Schools for All Coalition.”
The governor’s task force gives the green light to activist groups like OutFront to move into public and private schools. It calls for “actively enlisting … community-based advocacy groups” to “chang[e] peer and community norms” and develop bullying-intervention strategies.
Not surprisingly, the task force’s proposed new antibullying regime would not treat all children equally, despite lip service to this goal. Instead, it focuses on students in “protected classes,” including sexual orientation and “gender identity or expression.”
Under the task force’s vague and overbroad definitions of bullying and harassment, students could be punished for “direct or indirect interactions” that other students –especially those in protected groups — claim to find “humiliating” or “offensive,” that have a “detrimental effect” on their “social or emotional health,” or even that promote a “perceived imbalance of power.”
By this standard, a student who voices reservations about same-sex marriage could be accused of bullying LGBT students.
We get a sense of what may be on the horizon from “Welcoming Schools” — a K-5 “antibullying” program developed by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender advocacy group. The program was scheduled to be piloted at Hale Community School in Minneapolis in 2008.
“Welcoming Schools” had little to do with bullying, and much to do with ensuring that kids as young as age 5 submit to the group’s orthodoxy on sexuality and family structure.
The curriculum advised teachers not to call students “boys and girls,” on grounds this can create “internal dissonance” in some children. It called for students to read books like “Sissy Duckling,” and to be evaluated on “whether or not [they] feel comfortable making choices outside gender expectations.” Kids in grades three to five “acted out” being members of nontraditional families, including same-sex-headed families.
In lesson after lesson, teachers were instructed to urge their students — ages 5 to 11 — to reject traditional views on sexuality and family structure as hurtful “stereotypes,” and to use group exercises and classic indoctrination techniques to pressure them to adopt the curriculum designers’ attitudes and beliefs.
At Hale, parent concerns prompted removal of some of the curriculum’s most controversial aspects.
The governor’s task force recommendations could entail serious consequences for dissenting students. The report includes language suggesting that students who express views that others consider offensive could be referred for “counseling” or “mental health needs.”
The activists gathering at the State Capitol march under the banner of tolerance. Yet many seek to use state power to impose their own beliefs on others — including parents who exercise their rights of conscience by choosing private schools that teach Christian, Jewish or Muslim beliefs on sexuality.
Yesterday’s champions of tolerance, it seems, are becoming the bullies of today.
You got a problem with that? Democrats in Minnesota give new meaning to the dangers of “bullying.” There ought to be a law indeed. In the meantime, forewarned is forearmed.