Mother of Autistic Son Asks Gov. Pawlenty: Why veto the safe schools bill?

The following is a letter from Ann Crane, mother to Adam, who is
diagnosed with autism, to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Gov.
Pawlenty vetoed the Safe Schools for All bill last Saturday. The MN
Safe Schools for All Coalition, of which Family Equality Council is
a part, is organizing a response. Stay tuned.

May 27, 2009

Dear Governor Pawlenty

As a parent of a child with a disability, I am outraged that you
vetoed the anti-bullying/harassment bill (SF 971/HF 1198).  It is
clear that current law doesn’t go far enough to protect students
with disabilities.

My son, Adam, who has a diagnosis of autism, was bullied for two
years at his middle school.  When I approached his school about
the bullying, which was in the form of name calling and physical
shoving, the principal and his teacher said the incidences were
isolated and they felt like they were not serious enough for school
intervention.  Over time, Adam simply did not want to go to
school.  He was terrified and began acting out before he got on
the school bus in the morning.  After many months of inaction by
the school district, we decided to home school him.  However, Adam
will continue to live with the emotional scars of his

While it would be ideal for schools to be responsible for
adequately training staff to prevent and respond to bullying and
harassment, the sad fact is it was not happening at my son’s
school.  Therefore, we need laws that are stronger that mandate
training for school staff.  Some common facts about school
bullying and harassment you should know:

•    It has been found that teens with developmental
disabilities and other special needs are bullied more often than
their typically developing peers (Medical University of South
Carolina, 2009).

•    More than two-thirds of students believe that schools
respond poorly to bullying with a high percentage of students
believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.

•    Twenty-five percent of teachers saw nothing wrong with
bullying or “put downs” and consequently intervened only 4% of
the time (Cohn & Cantor 2003, Council on Scientific Affairs;
American Medical Association 2002).

Governor Pawlenty, students with disabilities are a vulnerable
population when it comes to bullying and harassment.  Knowing
this, how can you in good conscience turn your back on them? 
Asking the Commissioner of Education to “encourage
school districts to revisit the enforcement of these policies to
protect students from bullying, intimidation, harassment, and
violence,” is simply not enough.


Ann Crane
Mom to Adam