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Editorial: Act to stop bullying

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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With the advent of social networks and Internet anonymity, bullying has become more prevalent and pressing across cyberspace and school hallways alike.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has long been an advocate for anti-bullying measures. Now, Branstad is finding support for more action nationwide from two of Iowa’s members of Congress.

The Comprehensive Bill to Promote Student Health and Prevent Bullying, introduced by Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was released by Braley on Sept. 18.

If enacted, the bill will create two grant programs, the first providing funding to states for programs to support positive conditions for learning. The second program will fund resources to develop and improve data systems to provide analysis to improve conditions for learning in schools and communities.

The bill comes on the heels of other anti-bullying efforts in Iowa. Just last month, the governor announced a second bullying-prevention summit at a press conference, making the case that the methods of bullying have changed over time.

“It used to be a lot of bullying took place on school grounds; now, a lot of this happens on social media,” Branstad said at the conference.

The summit was announced alongside a video contest for schools in Iowa, with a cash prize offered for the video that best showcases the need for students to feel safe and supported at school.

Bullying has become a flagship issue for Branstad, and with good reason. The CDC reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15-24, and bullying is often the biggest factor in suicide attempts, especially among young people. Now that the torment can continue outside of school hours, some may feel as if there’s no escape from harassment.

Though Branstad’s efforts are mostly supported by the state Legislature, some in his party think efforts such as Braley’s aren’t practical.

Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, said he thinks the bill is more about politics than an attempt to solve the problem of bullying.

“We’re currently over $16 trillion in debt at the federal level,” he said. “This is basically a state issue, and Congress is getting ready to fight over having to raise the debt ceiling yet again in order to pay for what it already has.”

Unfortunately, bullying is not a problem with easy solutions. Analysis of school data and brainstorming ways to make the classroom environment more positive for learning are good steps, and hopefully, this bill sets off a nationwide conversation on the perverse nature of bullying and how it can be prevented.

That this issue is embraced by politicians on both sides of the aisle should be encouraging news to those that want to see change in the way the nation looks at bullying. In a time of ever-widening political divides, any solutions supported by both Republicans and Democrats should be explored.

While conversations about the nation’s debt are valid, these kinds of anti-bullying measures tend to be a drop in the bucket in terms of education funding and overall spending.

But stopping bullying isn’t like building a bridge or repairing a road. Money alone won’t solve the problem. In order for these efforts to be effective, communities need the information and resources necessary to come up with creative ways to change the culture of bullying that exists in schools and online. Braley and Harkin’s legislation would be a good start.


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