IOWA GOVENOR SIGHS ANTI-BULLYING LAW
By Todd Dorman Journal Des Moines Bureau
WEST DES MOINES March,
2007 -- Iowa Gov. Chet Culver signed legislation Monday
the state's school
districts to adopt stringent anti-bullying policies.
Culver signed the bill at Valley High School
before a crowd of students, state lawmakers and
activists who have lobbied for the measure for
several years. The Democratic governor fulfilled
a campaign promise and checked another major
item off his legislative to-do list.
"This bill makes it clear that Iowans are
committed to providing protection against intolerance
in every Iowa school district," said Culver,
a former high school teacher. "Iowa is making
it clear today that bullying, threats and intimidation
have no place in our public education system."
Culver said Iowa is one of only 10 states to
adopt a statewide anti-bullying policy.
Under the bill, public and accredited non-public
school districts are required to adopt anti-bullying
policies that apply to all students, staff and
But those plans must also take specific aim
at bullies whose taunts are focused on a list
of real or perceived traits or characteristics.
That list includes "age, color, creed, national
origin, race, religion, marital status, sex,
sexual orientation, gender, identity, physical
attributes, physical or mental ability or, disability,
ancestry, political beliefs, socioeconomic status
or familial status."
The list -- in particular its mention of sexual
orientation and gender identity -- made the bill
politically controversial. Republicans who controlled
the Legislature in recent years previously blocked
debate on the measure.
That changed this year with Democrats in control
of the Legislature and the governor's office.
But Sen. Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, discounted
the bill's effect on stopping bullying and warned
that it could have unintended consequences.
"I think it will have absolutely no impact
whatsoever," McKinley said. "But I
think it could set up a reaction against kids
based on their protected class status."
McKinley also points out that the bill carries
no penalties for schools that fail to adopt policies.
Backers of the bill argue the list is necessary
to put the focus on students who traditionally
have been targets of abuse. And they acknowledge
that enforcement is the next challenge.
"Policy is only as good as the shelf it
sits on, so we need to make sure teachers and
administrators actually enact the policy," said
Brad Clark, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools.
School districts, under the bill, are required
to have policies in place by Sept. 1.
Todd Dorman can be reached at (515) 243-0138
or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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