Safe schools for All Bill should be passed

Sean Simonson, Activities editor

I would like to think that the protection of all students regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender is universally desirable. However, after the state legislature passed the Safe Schools for All Bill in a bipartisan vote in 2009, our then-governor Tim Pawlenty decided that it wasn’t. And he vetoed it.

Before rejecting state protection of children, Pawlenty claimed that Minnesota had already passed anti-bullying legislation. But differences existed in the 2009 bill; it outlined 14 different groups that would be included in anti-bullying teacher training.

So how could a man claiming to have Minnesotans’ best interest at heart decide to deny protection to children? Because he wanted to pander to the conservative base, and instead chose to submit to the religious right’s demands to stop any institutionalized protection of children who aren’t heterosexual.

This is unacceptable.

Here at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, we have a very low tolerance for bullying and have a harassment policy that says as much. But many schools in Minnesota don’t.

Within the past year and a half the Anoka-Hennepin district has seen 9 student suicides; 6 of these have been gay students. Anoka-Hennepin is unique, as the school district’s policy towards the issue of homosexuality is completely “neutral.” Teachers are not allowed to show homosexuality in a positive or a negative light. So when one student throws out the word “fag,” a teacher is unable to intervene, unless they’re willing to risk their job. How “neutral” is this policy actually?

No matter your opinion on homosexuality, the protection of children from harassment, intimidation, abuse, and bullying is intrinsically right. And it is something that needs to be addressed.

Children deserve our protection regardless of perceived or actual race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical characteristics, and association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

So in a political world now ruled by turmoil, partisanship, and anger, let’s make a good, bipartisan choice and tell our congresspeople to vote to protect all children and pass the Safe Schools for All Act.