The Ottumwa Courier

Education

October 14, 2013

Branstad continues to work on bullying prevention

(Continued)

Branstad held his first bullying summit a year ago. That event followed some high-profile bullying incidents in the state.

In April 2012, a 14-year-old boy from Primghar committed suicide following bullying at school and online after he told people he was gay. In June of that year, a Mason City girl and her mother sued the Mason City school district, saying it did nothing to protect the teen from bullying.

Carver, who plans to participate in the upcoming conference, said he was hopeful another attempt would be made at legislation or other ways to help school leaders deal with the problem.

Fandel also said the legislation was hindered because there wasn't enough advance collaboration among the various education groups. This year, she said the governor's office was reaching out to stakeholders early.

"This year we have started to have conversations with a lot of people who have an interest in bullying prevention," Fandel said.

Fandel said the focus of the summit this year was on practical steps students, educators and parents can take to prevent bullying.

"We really want to change the culture so we reduce bullying as much as possible," Fandel said. "It's not an easy problem to respond to. But I think we have to do a better job whether we do it in changes in state law or local school district policy or raising awareness."

Tammy Wawro, president of the Iowa State Education Association, which represents about 34,000 teachers, support staff and other educators, said the union did not take a position on the legislation this year, but favored working collaboratively on bullying prevention and cyber-bullying.

"Absolutely it is a concern and we want to do it right and do it together," said Wawro, who noted the union offers bullying prevention training courses. "If people think what happens on Facebook doesn't impact our classrooms, they're out of touch."

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