PHS students take part in summit on violence

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 03/11/97.

Four Paynesville Area High School students joined students from across the state to voice their opinion on hate crime legislation at the third annual Minnesota Youth Summit on Violence Feb. 11. The summit brought 200 students together to debate whether Minnesota needs to revisit their current approach to hate crimes and consider a more comprehensive approach. Students studied and debated a current bill aimed at increasing penalties for bias-motivated crimes, which will be proposed to the 1997 Legislature by Attorney General Skip Humphrey.

Representing Paynesville were Mary Frieler, Josh Mueller, Holly Olmscheid and Sene Binsfeld.

To prepare for the summit, students researched the possible impact of the bill on their communities and statewide by working with individuals in their communities who understand or work with the proposed issue or legislation. They also researched past and current hate crime legislation and trends.

At the summit, the student delegates worked side by side with members of the legislative and law enforcement community who were present to provide background and perspective to hate crimes, including: public defenders, police officers, professors, journalists, religious leaders and others.

The finale of the day occurred when delegates presented their ideas to Attorney General Skip Humphrey, key legislative authors Representative Karen Clark and Senator Linda Berglund and other legislators. The Paynesville delegates even met with their local legislator, Rep. Doug Stang.

Students were split on whether additional penalties for hate crimes are needed. Some questioned the legislationís effectiveness in deterring hate crimes, while others considered legislation a necessary step in reducing hate-based violence.

Binsfeld liked the opportunity to be in small groups and hearing everyoneís opinions. ďI also liked the idea of students debating their views with one another. It was a great experience,Ē she added. ďI learned there are many students in Minnesota who are subject to hate crimes and they have very passionate feelings on the subject. I never really had a grasp on the effects of hate crimes on todayís teens and the summit really opened my eyes.Ē

Mary Frieler learned that as students they can influence legislature and make a difference, after attending the Youth Summit. Holly Olmscheid learned how much revision goes into a bill of this or any sort and that one word can be a crucial element that changes how a bill is perceived. ďIt was a great experience overall. It was a true learning experience coming from a small town with very little diversity. We heard everyoneís viewpoint and I, for one, was exposed to opinions I wouldnít have been in my everyday life,Ē she added.

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