This morning I learned that Minnesota Governor (D), Mark Dayton’s Anti Bullying Task Force met for the first time today in Roseville. The task force was established to better prevent bullying in our Minnesota schools.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Attorney General Lori Swanson proposed legislation to require school districts to respond to bullying reports within 24 hours*. The bill also would require districts to create policies for reporting and documenting incidents, plans to protect students who are subject to bullying and those who report it. It was modeled after a law that drew bipartisan support this year in North Dakota.

Dayton reiterated that the task force had been in the works for some time but said he hoped Swanson’s proposal would complement its work. In addition to studying current research, members will look at other states’ laws and school policies, and interview experts, as well as educators, students and their families in hearings held statewide.

Now I’m not a teacher and I’m not a legislator and I’m certainly not a Democrat but I am pretty sure I could save our state a whole bunch of money and time instead of charging a 15 person task force to figure this out. I’m none of those things but I am a mother and I have seen plenty of bullying in my time. There is no way to eliminate bullying, there will always be people who feel power by picking on  innocent people, but  if you want to prevent kids from getting bullied there are a few things that we can do right away.

Teach kids not to be victims

This isn’t easy, we’ve spent the last 30 plus years teaching not just our kids but our nation how to be a victim of something. If we want to not have our kids fall victim to a bully we have to stop teaching them that it’s okay to be a victim of anything. We need to teach our kids that if someone picks on them they need to stand up and speak up right away.

Return the power to teachers and parents

It shouldn’t take 24 hours for a report to be filed and frankly a report shouldn’t have to be filed (we don’t want to turn bullies into criminals and filing a report sends them down that road by giving them a reputation early on. We want to nip the behavior in the bud). If a teacher see or hears about bullying happening on the playground they should have the power to respond right away. If a parent hears about an incident they shouldn’t have to fill out a form to get action. If a parent witnesses bullying they should feel free to intervene and talk to the children on the spot. Unfortunately most parents today don’t feel they can intervene for fear of lawsuits.

Punish the bully

Don’t suspend the child who bullies give him a public punishment to show him that bullying is not ok. Shame is a powerful tool and we stopped using it to our advantage a long time ago. Most of the kids who do bullying routinely couldn’t care less if they get kicked out school for a couple of days and probably prefer it. Don’t let them off the hook, keep them at school longer by cleaning the erasers (do we still have erasers?) or cleaning the toilets in the school. Give them a punishment that sucks so that maybe they might not do it again for fear they have to scrub out more toilets.

I’m sure there are more things we can do to prevent bullying but do we really need another task force? What happened to common sense? It’s time we started using it again instead of creating more legislation, committees and laws that are worth about as much as the paper they printed on out on the playground. Let’s empower parents, teachers and students so they can prevent bullying before 24 hours has elapsed.

*editor’s emphasis