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Editorial: Progress on anti-bullying bill

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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In 2007, the Iowa Legislature passed an anti-bullying bill designed to target the serious, and far too often deadly, problem of bullying in schools.

Technology has changed how and when kids can be harassed, and the laws in place are only useful in the proper context. Now that cyber bullying has become so prominent, parents and schools are looking for more power in these matters and for more effective systems in which to deal with them.

Last year, an anti-bullying bill floated around the Legislature but ultimately never reached Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk. Branstad, who has made anti-bullying legislation a priority in his time in office, said the bill was brought onto the docket far too late. He is much more optimistic this year that anti-bullying legislation will be passed, because the bill is first in line on the legislative agenda.

Branstad’s optimism looks well deserved so far, with the Senate passing the anti-bullying bill 43-7 on March 31. It will now be up to the House to pass it on to the governor, and that seems an achievable goal. A Des Moines Register poll found that 73 percent of Iowans supported an anti-bullying bill.
The bill is multifaceted in its approaches to both prevent bullying and handle it in progress (especially online).

In the bill is the allocation of resources for anti-bullying training for teachers, a student-mentoring pilot program, and school climate and bullying-prevention work groups. The bill also aims to clarify existing laws in regards to how and when parents are notified of bullying on social media. The school will have to inform the parent, unless the officials feel the child is in a neglectful or abusive home situation.

Branstad isn’t always a good friend of the public educators of Iowa. Many of his initiatives have targeted school budgets, slashing funding in all aspects of K-12 education and cutting down on funding for those suffering disabilities. This bill is a bit of common ground between the governor and the educational system. Branstad has supported the bill for quite some time and made special mention of it in his Condition of the State Address.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people under the age of 18. Among those ages 15 to 24, there are approximately 100 to 200 suicide attempts for every completed suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study at Yale University found that kids who had been bullied were anywhere from two to nine times more likely to attempt suicide. Suicide and bullying prevention in Iowa schools is critical to promoting physically and mentally healthy citizens.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board applauds the Legislature and Branstad for their support of this bill and actions to turn it into a reality. The next generation of Iowans may be at stake, making it a noble and justified cause. Let’s hope that in the future, Branstad and Iowa lawmakers spend enough time pushing not just for expanded anti-bullying campaigns but for better conditions for teachers and students — both of which can help alleviate the issues of violence, bullying, and performance.


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