Democrats in the Iowa Senate have passed a bill designed to give school administrators more authority to address instances of bullying that occur outside of school and on-line. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said addressing “cyber-bullying” is important.

“To all those young people across this state who have spoken up and asked us to act, we are acting,” Hogg said.

While all 26 Democrats voted for the bill, all 24 Republicans in the senate voted against it, voicing a variety of complaints. Republican Senator Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa said he’s worried school officials won’t be properly trained to recognize the First Amendment free-speech rights of students.

“We need to make sure that when we are dealing with bullying the people who are making the decisions on whether or not this qualifies as bullying understand the line,” Chelgren said.

Republican Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan objected to the new “Safe Schools” office created in the Iowa Department of Education and he suggested the bill didn’t provide enough money to train school officials.

“We try to cover everything, but we’re falling way short on this,” Johnson said.

Senator Hogg responded. “Senator Johnson, I know you don’t think $1 million is enough. I never saw your amendment to add money.”

Republican Governor Terry Branstad called upon legislators to pass anti-bullying legislation last year and again in January. An anti-bullying bill stalled in the Republican-led Iowa House last year. Many Republicans suggest it’s up to parents to police the actions of their children when they’re outside of school, however an anti-bullying bill has been under consideration in the House this winter.