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EDITORIAL: Bullying Summit A Good Start

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Editorial: Bullying Summit a Good StartFor far too long, we have simply accepted bullying as part of the school culture or part of growing up.

There have been too many bullying-related incidents -- some ending in tragedy -- to accept that stance any longer.

It is our hope that the Iowa Governor's Bullying Prevention Summit held late last month can make some inroads in combating this problem in school, out of school and online.

The summit featured speakers and experts who work on bullying prevention. That included Sioux City Schools Superintendent Paul Gausman, whose district was among those featured in the documentary film "Bully." He urged those in attendance to, "be an upstander, not a bystander." An upstander, he said, is a person who stands up for what they believe and who stands up for others. It's a message Gausman has been trying to get across to his district's students ever since the film came out.

Around the time the documentary opened in Sioux City, a 14-year-old high school student in a nearby community took his own life -- another victim of bullying. In that case, sexual orientation appeared to have played a role, but there are many reasons a bully may strike.

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According to the government website stopbullying.gov, bullying is aggressive behavior that includes an imbalance of power. Kids who bully use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information or popularity to control or harm others.

The state's anti-bullying statute was considered one of the best in the country when it was passed five years ago, and it is uncertain at this point if it needs to be amended.

Over 1,100 people showed up for the summit in Des Moines. Keynote speaker Rosalind Wiseman, author of the book "Queen Bees and Wannabes," told teachers they need to stand up to students and tell them bullying behavior is not tolerated.

We all do.

Over the years, we realize that teachers and school administrators have been saddled with addressing many types of student behavior -- on top of their education duties. That's one reason why we are interested in legislation proposed last year that could be revived during the next session.

The proposal takes a page from the state's truancy law that holds parents of problem truants responsible and prescribes punitive action for first, second and third offenses. Should bullying persist, there would be other options, including mediation or sending the case to juvenile court.

The bottom line is we can't continue to look the other way. We applaud the Branstad administration's effort to shine more light on this issue, in an effort to come to some meaningful solutions. ___