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Order 86: Branstad creates Office for Bullying Prevention

Bullying

By Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

Branstad OfficialWith conservatives within the base of his own party clamoring for him to take executive action to defund Iowa’s abortion industry, Gov. Terry Branstad instead issued an executive order to placate another interest group during a “Buddy Bench” dedication ceremony today at Arthur Elementary School in Cedar Rapids.

Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds were on hand for the dedication ceremony for the “Buddy Bench” to recognize the bullying prevention work of Isaac Taylor, a middle school student who has been working to raise money to install similar benches on at least 17 additional school playgrounds in the Cedar Rapids area to foster friendship. At the event, Branstad noted his administration’s efforts over the past three years to put in place policies — oftentimes with opposition from the conservative grassroots of his own party — that “ensure every student feel safe and respected at school.”

He then signed off on Executive Order 86, which establishes a new “office for bullying prevention” at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention. The order states, “The office’s mission shall be to empower schools to provide each and every student with a safe and respectful learning environment.”

And, in reading Executive Order 86, it appears many of the elements of Branstad’s anti-bullying initiative last legislative session are now being put in place without the General Assembly’s approval. These aspects of the new bureaucracy include:

  • Training: The office will ensure schools have access to training to establish anti-bullying policies and conducting investigations of complaints of harassment or bullying.
  • Page One of Executive Order 86 (Click to view in full size)

    Page One of Executive Order 86 (Click to view in full size)

    24-Hour Hotline: The office, in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Department of Education, will promote YourLifeIowa.org, an existing hotline for students who feel threatened, bullied, or harassed at school. The website is operated by the Suicide Prevention and Iowa Youth Survey Coordinator in the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Division of Behavioral Health.

  • Reporting Procedures: The office, in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Education, will develop a procedure for the prompt notification of parents or guardians of victims and alleged perpetrators in reported incidents of harassment of bullying.
  • Cyberbullying: The office is charged with developing guidelines promoting safety from cyberbullying and how to respond to bullying that takes place electronically and interferes with learning at school. This was a major point of contention with the Administration’s anti-bullying efforts last legislative session because it was perceived to extend school authority beyond school events and property.
  • Data Collection: The office will work with schools and the Iowa Department of Education to address inconsistencies in school reporting of bullying and harassment data.
  • Page Two of Executive Order 86 (Click to view in full size)

    Page Two of Executive Order 86 (Click to view in full size)

    Varsity Sports Participation: The office will convene a working group with the Iowa High School Athletic Association, the Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the School Administrators of Iowa, and the Iowa Department of Education to propose administrative rules to the Iowa Board of Education to allow open enrollment on the basis of harassment or bullying without being penalized to participate in varsity sports.

  • Mentoring Program: The office will promote a student mentoring program to promote student leadership in order to prevent and respond to bullying and violence in schools. The program will spread “best practices” for bullying and violence prevention for middle and high school students.

Executive Order 86 goes into effect immediately, although it is unclear how it will be facilitated, and at what cost to taxpayers. The Governor’s Office has not yet responded to questions with regard to those matters.