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OCTOBER 7, 2014 9:07AM

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All Kids Deserve to Be Safe from Bullying: Jakes


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BYTIM WALKER
On a sunny spring day last April on the steps of the state capitol, Minnesota Governor Mark
Dayton signed the Safe and Supportive MinnesotaSchools Act into law. Of the many speakers
at the ceremony, the crowd cheered the loudest for 11-year-old Jake Ross. Bullied mercilessly
while in second grade, Jake turned his hurt into action and became a tireless advocate for
toughening up his states anti-bullying law, one of the weakest in the nation.
The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools
Act is a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that will
require all schools in the state to have an antibullying policy that clearly defines bullying,
harassment, and intimidation, provides training
and resources for students, staff, and
volunteers and lays out specific procedures
school staff must follow when bullying is
reported.

To mark National Bullying Prevention


Awareness Month, Jake recently told his story
toNEA Today, detailing his personal struggle as
a bullying victim and why he believes the new law in his state will help reduce the problem.

When I was 7 years old and in 2ndgrade I was the victim of on-going and repeated bullying at
the elementary school I attended. The bullying included physical harm, verbal threats,
intimidation, and stealing.

One of the worst incidents was during lunch and recess on February 2, 2010. While I was eating
lunch at our assigned classroom table in the cafeteria, one of the bullying students stood up at
the lunch table and said very loudly, Whos going to help me beat up Jake today ?!

Following lunch, outside at recess I was cornered and attacked. I was pushed to the ground
repeatedly. I tried to get away, but I could not. When the recess whistle finally blew and
everyone went inside the school, the student who attacked me yelled, Im going to kill you if
you tell anyone! Im going to kill you tomorrow! This made me feel scared because I was
afraid that he might try to seriously injure me the next day. I was scared for many more days
following this attack, and I was scared about what was going to happen to me next at school

My mom was really worried about me at school, too. She ate lunch with me and came to recess.
I told her about the harm that was happening to me at school, and she reported these things to
the school officials. The only consequence for the two students who hurt me repeatedly was
that they had to apologize even though the bullying continued through the end of the school
year. My mom asked the school official to have the students moved to a different assigned table
area in the cafeteria the bullying usually happening at lunch and recess but the answer was
no. They told us they couldnt becausethey had to think about the kids the bullies would then be
sitting by.Because of this, I had to sit by the students who bullied me every day.

ANTI-BULLYING
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Find out more atNEAs BullyFree: It Starts With Me campaign. Resources include the NEA Bullying Prevention Kit, 10
Steps to Stop and Prevent Bullying and the Bully Free: It Starts With Me pledge.
My mom had a meeting with the school officials and asked to see the schools policy and
procedures for bullying. The school official told her that there were no procedures and no list of
consequences for bullying at the school.

Because it would not provide a safe learning environment for me, my parents took me and my
younger sister out of this school.

I quickly learnedhow common bullying is for so many studentsand I became involved in antibullying awareness. I know what its like, and I didnt want it to happen to any more kids. All kid
deserve to be safe from bullying.

My role in advocating for the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act was as a
spokesperson for children and youth who have been bullied in schools. I publically told my
story of having been bullied, lobbied at the Minnesota State Capitol during the 2013 and 2014
legislative sessions and testified in favor of the bill at committee hearings. I have been fortunate
to get to know Senator Scott Dibble, who co-sponsored the Safe and Supportive Schools Act.
He is a role mode for me. I also wrote newspaper guest commentary articles and letters-to-theeditor on Why I support the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act. These were
published in our local newspapers. I also collected over 500 petition signatures in support of the
bill. At local community events, I provided information about the bill.I am still involved in
advocating for the law and its implementation in schools.

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will help protect students from bullying by changing the
idea that bullying is just something that happens to kids to bullying is something that hurts kids
and it isnotacceptable. This new law creates the mindset that schools should be safe and
inviting places forallstudents, and that all students are accepted and valued.

I think the best parts of the new law are the enumerated protections and the use of restorative
justice practices.

Enumerated protection is important because it protects those students who are likely to be
bullied more often and more severely. It sends the message that its not O.K. to bully anyone,
even if they are different from you.

Restorative justice practices are an important part because punishing the bully without teaching
anything will not help stop the behavior over the long term. The bully may continue the hurtful
behavior throughout their school years and into their adult years.

Restorative Justice helps all those involved in bullying situations by getting to the reason why
the bullying happened, and coming to an agreement that helps everyone stop the harmful
behavior and repair the harm that was done, so healing can happen. All those involved,
including the people harmed, witnesses, the harm-doer, community members, etc. come

together and use a process that works through the problem and reaches a consensus at the
end that all agree to. This is how bullying situations can be dealt with in a way that actually puts
an end to the harm.

I would tell three main things to kids who are being bullied. First, know that it is not your fault.
No one should blame you for the harm that is happening to you. Bullying is a form of abuse,
and anyone who is being abused needs help from others. Second, tell a trusted adult about the
bullying. This could be your parent, other caring adult in your life, a teacher, coach, church
youth leader. Finally, hang around with other students who are nice as much as you can.