Bullying is becoming more prevalent inside and outside our Iowa schools. These acts of harassment and bullying are being shared on social media, reported on the six o’clock news and written about in the newspaper the following day. Today, Iowa students fall victim to bullying because of the clothes they wear, the friends they spend time with, whether they play sports, their religious faith or who they may date. These acts of harassment on the playground, in the classroom or online may escalate resulting in threats of violence or actual physical confrontation. Every student in Iowa should feel safe in their learning environment.
The governor and the legislature have committed to working toward policy that will reduce the incidence of bullying in our schools and playgrounds. I share that goal. However I am very disappointed in the language in SF2318 that passed out of the Senate this week on a party line vote. There are several components of that bill that I object to.
First are the parental notification requirements that are in the bill. It appears that the parent’s role is barely an afterthought. The bill calls for parental notification “upon the investigation and determination that harassment or bullying has occurred.” Senate Republicans offered an amendment that calls for “the immediate notification of the parents and guardians of all students directly involved in a reported incident of harassment or bullying.” The distinction is critical. We believe parents should be part of the investigation and determination, not be notified after the fact.
Second, current Iowa law does not protect all children from bullying, and the language in SF2318 does not correct that. Current code limits the definition of bullying to 19 traits or characteristics of students, but clearly excludes students who do not have one of those traits or characteristics. I believe that is wrong because I believe all students should be equally protected from bullying by the Iowa code. Again, our amendment to protect all students was denied by Senate Democrats.