The Iowa Senate has passed a bill designed to give school officials more authority to respond to bullying that occurs outside of school hours as well as on-line through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said “off-campus” harassment has an impact on students inside the school building.
“On-going harassment and bullying can devastate children, endanger their mental and physical health, and leave scars that last into adulthood,” Hogg said.
Governor Branstad has supported expanding Iowa’s anti-bullying law for the past three years, but his fellow Republicans have objected to previous approaches, arguing parents have primary responsibility for their children outside of school hours. Anti-bullying bills passed the House and the Senate last year, but in slightly different forms.
The bill that passed the Senate late this morning on a 43-7 vote would require that parents be notified if their child is involved in a bullying incident, unless the school official believes that notice might “subject the student to harm.” Hogg said that “promotes more parental involvement.”
“We need safe schools so that all students, regardless of their background, can achieve their full potential,” Hogg said.
The bill also calls for more training to help educators intervene when a child is being bullied. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, said after three years of trying, the bill that’s emerged is a good compromise.
“I think there have been some very delicate trade-offs that needed to be addressed,” Quirmbach said.
Governor Branstad issued a written statement “applauding” Senate passage of the bill. Branstad said he is “hopeful that the bill will receive support in the Iowa House” and reach his desk for final approval this year.