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OUR OPINION: Consider N.D.'s anti-bullying law

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education Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Here's hoping today's columnist Roger Chamberlain reads what today's other columnist, John Johnson, has to say.

Because by pointing to North Dakota's anti-bullying law, Johnson may have shown Minnesota's Republicans and Democrats alike the way forward.

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Chamberlain, a Republican, is assistant minority leader of the Minnesota Senate. As such, he should be especially interested in two of the numbers Johnson cites: 76-18 and 36-10.

Those are the margins by which North Dakota's anti-bullying law passed the North Dakota House and Senate, respectively, in 2011. But Chamberlain might not know that Republican lawmakers enjoyed supermajorities in both chambers in 2011 (as they still do today).

Couple that with the North Dakota law's status as No. 1 on Bully Police USA's list, and Chamberlain should recognize that something special is going on.

Among other things, the North Dakota law answers some of Chamberlain's complaints about the bill that'll be considered in Minnesota. For example, the "real problem" with the Minnesota bill "is its vagueness," Chamberlain writes.

In contrast, the North Dakota law uses pretty straightforward terms, defining bullying as conduct on a school bus, on school property or at a school activity that "is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it substantially interferes with the student's educational opportunities (or) places the student in actual and reasonable fear of harm."

The definition goes on for a few more lines, but those, too, are refreshingly free of legalese.

Here's another tool Chamberlain and others could use: North Dakota's law now has been in place for a few years. How has it worked?

If the state's superintendent of public instruction responds "perfectly well," that's evidence for Minnesota to follow North Dakota's lead.

If, on the other hand, she says "Far too many frivolous complaints," then that's evidence as well -- evidence that Chamberlain and other Republicans in the Legislature have a valid point in their critique.

Bullying used to take place in a schoolyard. Now, because of social media, it takes place in a virtual football stadium filled with spectators from around the world.

That's different enough to require stronger regulation. And in figuring out where to go next, Minnesota should consider North Dakota's way.

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