Governor Terry Branstad says Iowa schools need to review their anti-bullying plans and ensure teachers and staff know what to do when students are harassed. “You need to teach people, when this occurs, how you combat it, how you deal with it, who you report it and all that sort of stuff,” Branstad says. “And you need to make sure there is follow up.”
A northwest Iowa teenager who openly admitted to being gay killed himself April 15th. His family says he was being bullied on-line and at school with gay slurs. Branstad was asked at his weekly news conference if the state could do more to combat bullying in schools.
“The state is already doing a number of things. We have a law that requires every school district to have a plan to deal with bullying,” Branstad replied. “…I think we need to continue to look at how we can be more effective in making sure that school districts know their responsibility and that they take these problems very, very seriously.”
Branstad says bullying “may be a difficult area” for school officials, but he says the “safety and security” of all students should be paramount. “In the old days it would be a kid on the school grounds or on the playground or maybe in the hallway,” Branstad said. “And that has, I think, made it even worse.”
Branstad also touted the annual governor’s conference on bullying. The Family Leader, a Christian conservative group, had urged Branstad to quit sponsoring the conference because they say it promotes the gay lifestyle. Fourteen-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn Junior, of Primghar, committed suicide on a Sunday.
His sister, who is 16, says kids started calling him names at school after he publicly admitted to being gay.