Governor Terry Branstad on Monday signed an executive order formalizing pieces of anti-bullying legislation he tried to get through the Iowa Legislature the past three years. The order designates the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention as the program responsible for developing public school anti-bullying tools, including a reporting hotline.
“Also, we’re going to ask them to put together a plan to deal with cyber-bullying and how that can best be handled by the schools,” Branstad said. The order, signed at Arthur Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, also allows athletes who’ve been bullied to transfer without penalty. “It’s not really fair for some child who’s been bullied and wants to transfer schools to have to sit out a semester,” Branstad said.
The governor is hoping the UNI Center for Violence Prevention will also tackle inconsistencies in how Iowa schools report bullying. “Consistent reporting — that’s something that hasn’t been addressed previously. The reporting is required by law, but has not been done in any consistent way,” Branstad said. Michael Fleming is the director of research and assessment at the UNI Center for Violence Prevention.
“Part of what we’re hoping to happen with this type of program is that students step up and intervene before the bullying happens…so that culture changes,” Fleming said. UNI is picking up the initial costs of operating the new Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention. Branstad said he will ask the next legislature for additional funding.
(Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio contributed to this story)