New laws to better protect LGBT students from bullying were signed into law on Wednesday by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.
The law will require school districts to diligently track and investigate instances of bullying within three days of occurring, while also training faculty to prevent harassment, according to CBS News. The previous law only required school districts to have an antibullying policy in place, but did not establish standards for the content or enforcement of the rules. And at just 37 words long, it was considered one of the weakest laws of its kind in the nation.
Nineteen categories of bullying are mentioned in the new legislation, including sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, physical appearance, and economic class.
The bill passed late Tuesday night after 12 hours of debate in the state House. Several critics of the legislation said parents, not school, should be responsible for correcting children's behavior. Others claimed it would punish children for "schoolyard behavior."
In signing the bill into law Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Dayton took a swipe at the measure's critics who had claimed the legislation was "fascist," countering that the law was, in actually, as American as it gets. The law will go into effect for the 2014-15 school year.
One particular school district in Minnesota, the Anoka-Hennepin district in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs, caught plenty of attention due to several high-profile instances of bullying and suicide. After years of attention — including a Rolling Stone article titled, "One Town's War on Gay Teens," — the school district reached a settlement in 2012 after six students sued the district. They claimed that the policy requiring teachers to remain neutral when LGBT issues were mentioned led to severe bullying and harassment.