Iowa Governor Terry Branstad announced a bill that was the result of the anti-bullying conference, HSB 196, was filed in the Iowa House. The language was produced by School Administrators of Iowa, and the bill will be introduced by State Representative Ron Jorgensen (R-Sioux City) who chairs the House Education Committee.
There were two positive aspects to the bill that I wanted to point out.
- It is more inclusive of any kid who is bullied, rather than just special interest groups. This bill adds the language, “other distinguishing characteristic” to the current list of characteristics and traits found in the Iowa Code. They also separate “harassment” from “bullying” in the definition found in the current law. The Governor’s office in an official statement said, “Harassment means conduct or an act based on an actual or perceived trait or characteristic of the student. Bullying is conduct or an act for “any reason other than any actual or perceived trait or characteristic of the student.” Sometimes kids are bullied for reasons that are not properly categorized as a trait or characteristic.”
- There is protection for First Amendment rights for students by stating nothing in the legislation shall be construed to restrain or discipline speech that expresses political, religious or other protected categories of speech, which address legitimate matters of public concern.
The second item would be key and an excellent addition in mitigating the threat of the loss of liberty that existed in the current law. I’m still not a fan of anti-bullying legislation it would make the law much better with the addition of the two items above.
Negatively this bill would give schools more authority off school grounds. From Governor Branstad’s announcement:
Giving schools more authority to address cyber-bullying by (a) adding “social networking” to the definition of electronic communications and (b) stating that nothing stops a school from addressing bullying or harassment that occurs away from school or a school function, while providing additional protection to school employees who decide not to act on alleged bullying under those circumstances.
I am not comfortable giving school districts more authority off school grounds. If cyber-bullying occurs using school computers or happens during the school day that’s one thing. If it happens at home that is for parents to handle. We don’t need additional government intrusion into the home. If the Iowa House Republicans lack the will or the votes to repeal the bullying law outright then they should strip out the bad in this bill and keep the good.