State Education officials have joined with the Governor’s office to send a letter asking Iowa’s schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. The Legislature passed a bill saying such a policy is a good idea, but did not require districts to adopt a policy. Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson says the 2002 Iowa Youth Survey showed 19-percent of students said they’d been beaten up or fought in school, while 17-percent reported they didn’t feel safe at school. She says all students have a right to feel safe in schools, and they should feel there’s a place to turn in a time of need. She says, “unfortunately, that’s not the case in Iowa.” Pederson says research shows childhood bullies are six times more likely to commit violent acts as adults, and children who’re bullied miss more school and suffer academically. She says if we deal with this issue as if it’s not really serious and it’s part of growing up and not really a problem — then she says we’re not really looking at the research and what the data tells us.17-year-old Jenny Chen of Ames is the chair of the Youth Action Committee and says she knows bullying in Iowa is a problem. Chen serves as a mentor for a freshman girl she says was the brunt of harassment in middle school. She says the girl would call her at night after friends teased her and says the girl had suicidal thoughts because of the experience. Chen says the committee is distributing ani-bullying packets to schools while the Department of Education is using federal money to send trainers to an internationally recognized bullying prevention program. She says if they can stop bullying from devastating one person’s life, then it’s completely worth it. Pederson says the Youth Survey will be modified next year to try and gather more data on harassment.
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