All students deserve a safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environment. Five years of education efforts by Iowa Safe Schools culminated in 2007 with the passing of Iowa’s Safe Schools Law—the state’s anti-bullying law. While Iowa’s anti-bullying law provides a foundation for success, there remains a need for additional legislation and resources to provide safe schools for all students.
Legislation must clarify the importance of resolving bullying situations in schools and implement consequences on school districts, administrators, and other staff who fail to protect kids from bullying behaviors. Since the law was passed, teacher intervention in bullying circumstances has remained stagnant, according to a 2017 University of Iowa study. Iowa needs to introduce teacher intervention training to help reduce cases of continuous bullying.
Iowa’s current anti-bullying law does not provide enforcement mechanisms for off-campus bullying. That same University of Iowa study also showed that instances of cyberbullying have increased over time since the law’s inception. We must develop tools for school administrators to address this ever-increasing problem.
New legislation should also ensure that schools have the resources and tools necessary to stop bullying behaviors. Funds continue to be cut from school districts, leading to fewer schools with an adequate number of school counselors and programming to prevent and intervene in bullying situations. Iowa needs to create a grant program for school districts to apply for funds through the Iowa Department of Education. These grant funds would be used to support school climate and culture activities that will prevent bullying behaviors. The State of Iowa also needs to maintain that school districts have the appropriate mental health supports for students affected by bullying.
We must continue to guarantee that all youth have the proper protection from bullying in Iowa’s schools. The Iowa Legislature needs to modernize our bullying law to match today’s education climate.