The Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual and Transgendered Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force will hold its eighth forum tonight (Tuesday) in Pella to talk about bullying faced by gay students. Brad Clark is the director of the task force and says they talk about all types of harrassment, but focus on homosexual students. Clark says that’s because of a study by the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual Education network that shows those students continue to face harrassment. He says there are a lot of consequences as students who get harrassed show lower achievement levels. He says studies show a 10-percent achievement gap between those who’re bullied and those who arent. He says those students also face problems with drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and absenteeism. Clark says the forum brings in several experts to talk with school officials about adding sexual oritentation to their bullying policies. He says one of them is a lawyer for the school administrators of Iowa, and he’ll talk about the importance of policies and how policies help to control behavior. He says another panelist will talk about the psychology of students and socialization and how more students are coming out, and the experiences they’re having. The Iowa Legislature turned back a push by the Governor to require schools to adopt a overall bullying law, leaving it up to schools to adopt policies on the local level. Clark says his group is seeking to get schools to expand their policies. He says the state doesn’t require schools to include sexual orientation in policies, “which we’ve found, you know, really helps schools address bullying and harrassment in those schools.” Clark says it’s a civil rights issue, as he says “we still don’t have full equality for people in our society.” Clark says several administrative groups are also pushing the issue. He says in June the School Administrators of Iowa reccomended that schools add sexual orientation to their policies, later in the summer, the Iowa State Education Association endorsed a policy that includes sexual orientation and gender idnetity, and right before school started, the Governor and Education Department released a model policy “to protect students in schools.” Clark says they’re trying to hold forums all across the state to hit all schools.He says most of the feedback so far is that teachers and admnistrators are craving this knowledge so they can work better with gay and lesbian students and he says most of the information is not out there. The forum in Pella tonight is from seven to 8:30 P.M. at the Graham Conference Center at Central College.
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