Iowa launches bullying database as UI focuses on the issue


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State and University of Iowa officials have recently launched efforts to help teachers better combat bullying that may occur among young adults.

The Iowa Department of Education launched a database on Sept. 14 to better track and report bullying incidences throughout the school year as a result of a 2007 state law, and UI officials are following in similar footsteps with the implementation of 12 bullying workshops over the course of this year.

The UI Teacher Leader Center intends to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of bullying during its yearlong workshops on bullying.

“We need to do something, and we need our teachers to do something,” Teacher Leader Center coordinator William Coghill-Behrends said. “The research paints a frightening picture of people who have been perpetrators or have been bullied.”

The UI Teacher Leader Center, which was formed two years ago as a part of the College of Education, has about 12 events scheduled over the course of the year centered on various aspects of bullying including prevention, training, and healing. Last week, 60 people attended the center’s Bullying Prevention 101 workshop, and 55 were scheduled to attend Monday night’s workshop on the psychological and medical issues associated with bullying.

“[Bullying] exists across all ages, settings, and environments,” said Susan Lagos Lavenz, associate dean of teacher education. “It’s very important role for the teacher to maintain safe environment, because a safe environment has to exist for learning.”

Jason Glass, the director of the state Education Department, said the database will serve as a tool for improving the accuracy of reporting instances of bullying at the state level.

“Previously, we received data, and there were real questions about if that data were valid or accurate,” he said.

He said the state would make use of the new data to improve bullying policies in the future and work with educators to better define the problem.

“Once we have accurate, quality, and valid data on the state level, we will be able to make better policy,” Glass said. “[The data] also give us the framework to make sure local school officials have a clear definition on what bullying is and make sure they know the difference between bullying and adolescent behavior.”

One UI official applauded state leaders for being proactive.

 “I’m impressed with the intensity [the state] is giving this issue,” Lagos Lavenz said. “Now schools are looking at the database to see the amount and types of bullying, and now it’s being called to disciplinary attention.”

One of the main problems educators face is first defining the problem of bullying, and separating it from previous stigmas regarding behavior.

“Sayings such as ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’; ‘boys will be boys’ used to excuse the behavior, but now we can call it bullying and harassment,” Coghill-Behrends said.  

The center will continue to focus on bullying, and teaching both students and even the community about the problem and possible solutions, and work with entities like the state to ensure the best policies are in place.

“It’s national issue, and the state is really stepping up to address it, but work can always work to be done on improving the climate,” Coghill-Behrends said.

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