The governor’s second annual bullying prevention summit is underway today in Des Moines.
“The focus of this year’s summit is on practical next steps,” Governor Terry Branstad says, “how adults and students can make a difference.”
Almost 1,100 students, school leaders and parents are attending the day-long event.
“We have seen a tremendous number of tragedies that have occurred because of it and some very inappropriate things that have occurred and we want to make sure that students and teachers and administrators and parents know what can be done to prevent it,” Branstad says. “…There are techniques and approaches that have worked and can work in other schools.”
The summit comes on the heels of revelations this past weekend’s suspension of an NFL player accused of bullying a teammate. Branstad says “there’s no question” bullying is a problem in society at large.
“It’s something that needs to be dealt with when it occurs, but it’s particularly devastating to younger people, to children in our schools and that’s the reason why we’ve focused on schools,” Branstad says. “But this is something that we need communities to be involved in, citizens to be involved in, sports teams to be involved in in a positive way and that’s something that we are trying to encourage through this summit.”
Branstad proposed legislation earlier this year that would have given school officials greater authority to crack down on bullying that occurs in social media, but some Republican legislators raised concerns about free speech issues and the bill was not passed in the 2013 legislative session. Branstad says his staff is culling through laws in other states and will prevent a revamped bill to legislators when the Iowa General Assembly reconvenes in January.
“Some of these issues, especially when you’re dealing with social media and things that occur not just on the school grounds but off the school grounds, but we also know those things do affect kids and it’s made it a 24/7 situation,” Branstad says, “not just something that happens when they’re on their way to school and back.”
Branstad made his comments during a news conference just before the summit opened at 9 a.m. The author of the book “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying” is the event’s keynote speaker. The nearly $100,000 cost of today’s summit is being covered by registration fees as well as a private fundraising drive.
AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference, 16:00