The Iowa Department of Education has a new feature on its website for schools — a sample policy on how to help prohibit bullying and harassment of students, by students. Legislative Liaison Jeff Berger explains it’s a template, a sample schools can use in writing policies of their own. Every district has harassment policies, and is now required to, but some are “woefully inadequate,” so the agency put out this sample policy to get them to think about making their own policies reflect current needs. Berger meets with lawmakers during the session and when it’s adjourned, to follow bills and to develop public policy on issues. In the past session, he says a couple bills were introduced to deal with the bullying issue, though neither passed. He says education leaders thought the bills did include valuable concepts, and when the governor’s office asked the agency to work on “ramping up” the effort they agreed. Berger says many think bullying is more a problem than it’s been before. He’s spent the summer talking with education associations and “stakeholder groups” to come up with a forward-looking policy that would let districts improve on their old ones. He wanted this one to reflect “current thinking in the field” on hazing, bullying, and harassment, and anticipate the newest developments in how such policies should be written. Berger says this is just the first of several planed strategies to tackle the problem. The education department will bring in a nationally-known unit that’s developed intervention strategies with schools on bullying issues, and they’ll train a small group of Iowans who then will go around and set up local training at schools around the state. Officials will also give special recognition to schools that are leaders in handling bullying and harassment, and collect data from schools on the issue. You hear about “achievement gaps” in scores, dropout rates and graduation rates, but if schools are really interested in all kids, they all must have a safe learning environment — but he says for some groups of kids, the schools aren’t doing that very well. Berger says that’s why the bullying debate is actually a bigger conversation about learning environments, and how to be supportive of every child. To take a look at the sample bullying policy surf to the department’s website at