The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 7, 2014

Mr. Pedersen goes to Des Moines

ELDON — A local school superintendent was one of the experts lawmakers wanted to talk to this week.

Cardinal Superintendent Joel Pedersen told teachers he’d be gone for the day after state legislators contacted him about the subject of bullying. He joined other school officials, as well as bullying victims, at the State Capitol in Des Moines.

According to the Associated Press, “officials told Iowa lawmakers that anti-bullying bills wouldn’t solve every problem but would make a big difference” to many students.

“I was asked to speak by an assistant to the governor ... who I’d worked with in the past,” Pedersen told the Courier. “She knew we’d worked quite a bit on school climate. She asked if I could bring a small school perspective. So there were superintendents from Sioux City, Waterloo, Council Bluffs — and me, from Eldon.”

Subcommittees in the state House and Senate took up the bills, both of which would require that parents be notified if school officials learn their children have been bullied. The bills also would require that administrators and teachers be given training for responding to and preventing bullying, and they would let officials respond to cases of cyberbullying away from school because such actions affect students at school.

Pedersen found that last section to be a bit ambiguous.

“I went up there with my own questions: I found that [school] administrators would act if there was a complaint but would not be expected to [constantly] police Facebook.”

Jacob Stallman, an 18-year-old from Tipton, said his experiences with bullying prove legislation is needed.

Since fifth grade, Stallman said he has been ridiculed for anything from his weight to his sexuality. He knew something needed to change when his peers took the bullying to social media, posting harsh comments on Facebook and Twitter, and administrators at his school didn’t take action.

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