Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson today called on the Legislature to take up a law designed to eliminate bullying in schools before the bill gets shoved out the way by the legislative process. Pederson says legislators were sent a copy of the bill, but have yet to take action. She says the bill would require each school to have a written policy that is against bullying. It would require a written definition of what constitutes bullying and harassment, and a written program to address and prevent bullying. Pederson used Merrill Middle School in Des Moines as an example of how such a policy can work. The school has won a national award for its anti-bullying program. Pederson was asked why schools can’t develop such proposals on their own. She says sometimes it’s a matter of schools being so busy that they don’t take the issue up. She says they want to see something happen uniformly. Pederson says they want to have schools take action before they’re forced to by some bullying incident.She says they don’t want to wait until every school in Iowa has an issue. Pederson says it would not costs schools very much to implement a program against bullying. She says “there’s a cost to doing nothing.” Because she says there’s a cost if children are bullied and harassed and miss school and then grow into problem teens and adults. And Pederson says those who bully others grow up learning the wrong behavior and can have problems later on too. Merrill student Keeli Shannon joined Pederson in speaking with reporters and talked about the bullying problem before the school policy. She says she’s seen plenty of people at her school get bullied for racial differences and “small things like that.” She says now there’s a zero tolerance for bullying and you can get suspended if caught. Shannon says much of the bullying is done with words.She says gossip is a big part of bullying and she says a lot of people didn’t know that was bullying, but she says it is. She says “there’s a lot of verbal too.” Pederson says the legislature needs to take up the issue to have it debated in time to make the first “funnel” deadline in two weeks, in which bills must have action taken on them or they’re weeded out of the process.
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