A bill that would deal with school bullies may fall victim to a partisan fight in the Iowa Senate. The republican who heads the Senate Education Committee says he wants to keep all kids safe in school, but he objects to the bill’s terminology which seeks to prevent bullying or harassment in schools that’s based on a student’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. McKinley says he doesn’t want to specify which groups need protection from bullies. But Brad Clark, project director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force, says teachers will be left hanging if the bill doesn’t list who is to be protected from bullying. Clark says teachers and administrators don’t feel they have the legal backing to control the problem when kids are called names like “faggot” in school. Clark says students who are harassed in school drop out and commit suicide at much higher rates. “To say, you know, it’s a thing that every kid should have to go through is just not an acceptable answer to the problem,” Clark says. Rich Eychaner, a gay Des Moines businessman who is active in republican party politics, says the legislature needs to act on this bullying bill. “It’s a widespread, pervasive problem,” Eichaner says. “It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse.” Eichaner says some teachers are taking “courageous stands” against bullying based on sexual orientation or some other factor, but without a law backing-up their actions, “It’s awfully easy to concentrate on something else” according to Eichaner. The anti-bullying bill is also one of Governor Tom Vilsack’s priorities.
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