IMAG0836Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds announced at their weekly press conference that they are hosting the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit on November 27, 2012 at HyVee Hall in Des Moines.   They said the summit will feature a number of speakers from communities around Iowa who will present their strategies at the summit.  They will also feature a number of state and national experts who will engage attendees on how to combat bullying both offline and online.

Present at this morning was Dr. Paul Gausman, superintendent of Sioux City Community Schools.  His school district was featured in the recent documentary, Bully, and he acknowledged that his school district and community have worked tirelessly to implement “progressive” bullying prevention measures including installing cameras in school buses and hire staff to screen the footage in order to catch problems before they become too serious.  He admitted that they failed the student who was featured in Bully, and they are working to improve their district.

Governor Branstad said, we believe we can, and we must, do more to stand up against bullying in Iowa.  Iowans have a well-deserved reputation for neighborliness.  Let’s leverage that tradition to put an end to bullying because all children deserve to feel safe at school.”

Governor Branstad referenced the most recent Iowa Youth Survey of students in grades six, eight and 11, and half of those surveyed reported being bullied in some way, and most students witness the bullying of their peers sooner or later.

Lt. Governor Reynolds added, “Some people may ask, ‘Why is so much attention being paid attention to the issue of bullying now?’ Awareness is growing that what used to be excused as ‘kids being kids’ is more harmful than previously realized.  Additionally, with the added threats from cyber-bullying, we can no longer discount bullying as a normal phase of childhood, or hope someone else will deal with the problem.”

Governor Branstad acknowledged that bullying is not just a school problem, in particular with cyber bullying, when asked just how far a school’s authority would lead into somebody’s home.  “We know it goes beyond school, today with all of the technology that is available and everything that goes on with cell phones, iPads and all of that information, all of that technology.  We need to try to find an effective way to deal with it.  I don’t know if anybody has the complete answer to that, and it is relatively new, but we know this has exacerbated the situation and it should be addressed.  So we’ll have legal people, school people, and parents discuss this.  There may be a need to make changes in the law as well, but these are things we hope to address in the summit.”

When asked about how focused the summit will be on sexual orientation due to some high profile suicides that have occurred in the state.  Governor Branstad said that the focus will be on a comprehensive look at the problem of bullying.  They will discuss at-risk groups, but that will not be the focus of the summit.

The cost of the summit will be $30 for those above 22-years of age, and $20 for students.  The summit is being paid for with funds from the Iowa Department of Education, and support from the private sector.  Looking at the summit website so far no donors have been announced.  The different levels of sponsorship is made available.  Those who donate $10,000 will be considered a partner, those who donate $5000 will be considered a sponsor, and $1000 will be considered a contributor.

Toward the end of the press conference, Governor Branstad was asked about Republican Party of Iowa Chair, A.J. Spiker’s, call for Iowans to vote no on Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins’ retention vote.  He said everyone has a right to free speech.  He said he trusts Iowa’s voters and that he will do the same thing he did in 2010 and remain neutral.  He acknowledged that is it a constitutional process and that Iowans have the right to determine whether or not he should be retained.

Some thoughts:  I’m concerned about this summit, especially when Governor Branstad said that changes in the law might be necessary to deal with cyber-bullying.  I’m not sure if he means giving school districts authority to reach into private homes to address the issue or something else.  I’ve already been concerned with his trend to expand state government reach into the area of education so I wouldn’t be surprised if his administration attempts to do the same to address bullying.  We already have a bullying law on the books.

I’m also concerned about how the LGBT movement has latched onto bullying prevention programs.  I’m concerned about what might be considered “bullying” by groups that consider disagreement with them as hate.  I won’t deny that bullying is a problem.  I think the definition of it has been expanded way beyond where it should be compared to when I was a kid, but bullying is a problem.  If Governor Branstad can keep the focus on educating the public and keep the information on bullying in general without letting it be hijacked by gay rights groups then my concerns will be unwarranted.

Looking at the list of resources on the website I don’t hold out much hope of that happening.  That and the fact he is willing to consider addressing the topic legislatively.  I anticipate another attempt to grow government and expand the reach of government by the Branstad administration as a result of this summit.

You can watch a video of the press conference below:

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