SD will not be bullied into anti-bullying legislation

The U.S. Department of Education reported earlier this week that only three states - South Dakota, Michigan and Montana - do not have laws addressing bullying in schools. Read the very long report here.

Michigan’s governor signed one Tuesday, so we’re now down to two.

But Montana at least has adopted a model policy for school districts. As the report says:

South Dakota is the only state with no bullying law and no source of state guidance for schools to respond to bullying on their campuses.

No state guidance, sure, but the lobbying group that represents all school districts does. Find it here.

South Dakota lawmakers have tried to pass a bullying bill. In 2009, HB1279 failed on a series of narrow votes despite having a slew of sponsors. It sought to define bullying and require school boards to adopt an anti-bullying policy.

Last year’s SB104 would have simply required school boards to enact anti-bullying policies. But it too failed, on a 4-3 vote in the Senate Education Committee.

Who would oppose an anti-bullying bill? In this case, it was Sens. Tim Rave, Mark Johnston, Elizabeth Kraus and Cooper Garnos, who now is a principal in the Lyman school district.

Also opposing the bill? The Sioux Falls School District. Here was their explanation:

The District opposes this bill because it moves the State Board of Education away from a policy making role and into the operational role of the school districts. The bill also infringes on local control of the elected School Board. The Sioux Falls School already has a bully policy that is also aligned to the District’s progressive discipline plan.

Feds turn attention to rural schools

The U.S. Department of Education has set up a new website for rural education and will spend August holding events and engaging in outreach events concerning rural ed.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan grew up in Hyde Park and ran Chicago Public Schools before President Obama hired him. Folks in South Dakota and other rural states have criticized his policies for being urban-centric. To wit:
* School improvement grants call on low-scoring schools to replace principals and teachers. But many rural schools have a hard enough time filling positions.
* Competitive grants like Race to the Top have rewarded states that have charter schools. Outside of a group in Rapid City, there’s little interest in charters, which are more of a big-city thing.
I wrote about this disconnect last August. South Dakota’s then-Education Secretary Tom Oster had joined 11 other rural ed chiefs lobbying for rural-friendly legislation.
Duncan seems to be getting the message.
A big competitive grant program, i3, now gives preference to rural schools. I didn’t mention it in my story, but the south-central South Dakota “lab schools” I wrote about last month have applied for an i3 grant.
Duncan said this Monday in a news release:
“Rural schools are critically important to our nation’s future prosperity. As we prepare for the new school year, it is important to recognize the unique opportunities and challenges in rural schools and communities. Our nation needs the skills and talents of rural children and adults. More rural students need to access college and career training beyond high school to meet the needs of their local economies.”

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