From Senator Rich Taylor

Written by Theresa Rose on May 15, 2015

HOUSE NEEDS TO ACT ON BIPARTISAN ANTI-BULLYING BILL

In 2007, the Iowa Legislature required school districts to adopt safe school policies to guard against harassment and bullying. Unfortunately, there is still too much of it going on.

This issue was once again brought to forefront by the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in central Iowa. This was the second time in two years that a student from the Southeast Polk School District committed suicide in part because they were bullied for their sexual orientation, according to parents.

The 2014 Iowa Youth Survey polled more than 77,000 students, with 39 percent reporting they were bullied at school at least once in the last 30 days by other students calling them names, making fun of them or teasing in a hurtful way.

Ongoing harassment and bullying can devastate children, endanger their mental and physical health, and leave scars that last into adulthood. Social bullying is one of the more dangerous forms, known to cause depression, loneliness and anxiety.

To reduce bullying, we must change social norms. It must become “uncool” to bully, “cool” to help students who are bullied, and normal for staff and students to notice when a child is bullied or left out. We should do more to create safe schools, including teacher training, parent involvement and enforcing anti-bullying policies.

Earlier this session, I was proud to support Senate File 345, a bipartisan bill that will give schools the tools they need. SF 345 requires school districts to have adequate training to investigate harassment or bullying. It also grants school officials the authority to investigate alleged incidents that occur outside of school and to impose school discipline.

A recent poll showed that 73 percent of Iowans strongly support anti-bullying measures. Yet House Republican leaders refuse to debate the anti-bullying bill—even though it was originally proposed by Governor Branstad and was approved on a bipartisan 43-7 vote in the Iowa Senate.

We need safe schools so that all students, regardless of their background, can achieve their full potential. This issue is too important and has too many horrible consequences for the Iowa House not to act. That’s why the Senate made our anti-bully legislation part of the Senate’s Standings Bill (SF 510). This will give the House another opportunity to do the right thing.

If you know of someone having trouble, encourage them to contact Iowa Health Student Assistance Program at 515-263-4004 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Additional information

This is a legislative update from Senator Rich Taylor, representing Henry and Lee counties and portions of Washington and Jefferson counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/taylor.

To contact Senator Taylor during session, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at home at 319-931-1568. E-mail him at rich.taylor@legis.iowa.gov.

Senator Taylor is chair of the Local Government Committee. He also serves on the Economic Growth, Human Resources, Judiciary, and Justice Systems Budget committees.