In the final hours of this year's segment of its biennial legislative session, the Minnesota Senate failed to take up a comprehensive safe schools bill that advocates say would have protected students from harassment and bullying.
Around 2 a.m. Monday, leadership of the Minnesota state Senate announced it would not bring forward the antibullying bill, but advocates promised to again take up the legislation when this legislature resumes in February 2014.
The MinnPost reports that Senate Republicans threatened a 10-hour filibuster on the legislation if it was brought up for debate. The legislation had drawn an unexpected level of ire in a session marked by contentious issues like marriage equality, reports the Post. The Catholic archdiocese in St. Paul and Minneapolis lobbied against the measure, calling it an "Orwellian nightmare" that would "usurp parental rights" and create "re-education camps," according to the Post. Despite language explicitly protecting students' right to freedom of religious association and practice, the opponents of the legislation refused to relent.
The key author of the bill, gay Democratic-Farmer-Laborer senator Scott Dibble, was incensed at the bill's failure. "I am profoundly disappointed in Senate Republicans promise to filibuster and effectively kill a bill that would have, at long last, replaced the country’s weakest antibullying statute with an effective measure to ensure students can go to school knowing that they are valued, that they will be safe, and that they have an equal shot in life," said Senator Dibble in a statement. "It is a shame that Republicans have again turned a deaf ear to the needs of students, parents, and teachers who have so courageously brought their stories to the Capitol year after year."
But Dibble, who was a key architect and advocate for the state's newly minted marriage equality law, was confident that the quiet death of the bill will not be the last Minnesotans hear of the legislation. "This failure is only a setback," he said in the statement. "This bill remains a live bill. We will take it up first thing next February and put every word of it into law."