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February 10th, 2015
 

Branstad, First Lady, Reynolds, students unite for campaign to end bullying in Iowa

Branstad Reynolds announce3
(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad, First Lady Chris Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today rallied with over 100 Iowa students at the Iowa State Capitol to call for passage of the Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015. The students and Sioux City School District Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman joined the governor and lt. governor for a statehouse press conference, launched a new Bully Free Iowa web video and were scheduled to meet with legislators on the important issue of bullying in schools. The full Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015 can be read here.
 
“Every Iowa child deserves a safe and respectful learning environment. Together we can send a strong message to our children that bullying – whether it is in the school yard or on social media – is unacceptable,” said Branstad. “The time to act is now, and let’s act while students are still in school to send a message that their voices were heard.”
 
“As a mother and grandmother, it troubles me to know that students are being bullied in Iowa schools and action hasn’t been taken to prevent it,” said First Lady Chris Branstad. “I was touched by the stories of Iowa students and teachers as we traveled the state on the anti-bullying listening tour. It is my hope that this is the year that we stand up to the bully and pass meaningful anti-bullying legislation in Iowa.”
 
“Ensuring that Iowa students have access to a world-class education has been a priority of our administration since taking office,” said Reynolds. “But if we are to continue to work to improve our schools, we must also act to provide a safe and secure learning environment that is free of bullying. Let’s work together to give educators, students and school districts the tools to better address bulling in Iowa schools.”
 

At the press conference, Gov. Branstad, First Lady Chris Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds unveiled their new anti-bullying web video where they explain the importance of passing legislation that provides a safe and respectful learning environment for Iowa students. The video can be seen here.
 
In addition, the governor and lt. governor are challenging students, educators, elected officials and Iowans to join the movement and share why they believe anti-bullying legislation is needed by using the hash tag #EndBullingIA
 
Background:
 
The Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015 would give Iowa students, parents and schools better tools to address bullying and cyberbullying because all children deserve to feel safe and respected at school. No youngster should dread going to class because they feel threatened, or wonder who will help them. Yet bullying remains a pervasive problem, with its reach expanded by text messaging and social networking. 
The legislation strengthens Iowans’ commitment to address cyberbullying by explicitly including “social networking sites”  in the definition of electronic and stating that schools have authority to address bullying that occur off school grounds. This sends a clear message that cyberbullying won’t be tolerated.
 
To protect their children, parents must be empowered with information. Tragic incidents – even suicides – have occurred in Iowa and other states where parents didn’t realize the extent of the problem.  The Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015 would require parental notification, with an exception if a school administrator or student reasonably believes it could lead to rejection, neglect or abuse.
Investigating complaints of bullying and harassment both at school and away from school can be challenging. Training in how to conduct such investigations will be offered to all Iowa school districts to assure that they are prepared to address this pervasive problem.
A pilot program in at least two middle schools and two high schools will empower students to know how to prevent bullying and stand up for classmates who face being bullied or harassed.  Providing more opportunities for student leadership is a crucial step toward doing more to prevent bullying and harassment.
Key supporters of the Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015
 
The following organizations have endorsed Gov. Branstad’s and Lt. Gov. Reynolds’ Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015:
 
 
  • Urban Education Network
  • School Administrators of Iowa
  • Iowa Association of School Boards
  • Iowa Business Council
  • Principal Financial Group
  • Iowa Medical Society
  • Iowa Association of Community College Trustees
  • Cedar Rapids Physician Hospital Organization
  • Iowa Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatrics – Iowa Chapter
  • Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association
  • Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa
  • YMCA State Alliance
  • Iowa Annual Conference of United Methodist Church
  • Iowa Alliance of Boys and Girls Club, Inc.
  • Iowa Peace Officers Association
  • Hy-Vee, Inc.
  • Iowa Department of Education
 
Acknowledgements:
 
The governor and lt. governor wish to thank the following organizations for their generous support of the anti-bullying day of action:
 
Verizon – Continued support for Iowa’s statewide anti-bullying efforts. 
Hy-Vee – Donation of boxed lunches for students who traveled to the Capitol for the day of action.

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