Bully Free Iowa

Bullying remains a hot topic again this year at the Iowa Legislature, with bills surviving the funnel deadline in both the House and the Senate.

School district harassment and bullying policies are covered by Iowa Code 280.28 Harassment and bullying prohibited–policy–immunity.

HSB 525 is the “Bully Free Iowa Act of 2014” proposed by Governor Branstad. The bill is only four pages long and proposes the following changes to the Iowa Code:

  • 256.7(33) directing the state board of education to adopt rules for annual notification to all school districts and accredited nonpublic schools of the availability of training meeting the requirements of proposed new subsection 272.2(19) relating to bullying prevention, suicide prevention, and the BOEE’s code of professional conduct and ethics.
  • 272.2(19) directing the BOEE to adopt rules requiring all individuals applying for or renewing a license, certificate, authorization, or statement of recognition issued by the BOEE to completed training relating to bullying prevention, suicide prevention, and the BOEE’s code of professional conduct and ethics, to the extent that training is made available by the state at no charge to the trainee.
  • 280.28(2)(a) amending “electronic” to include social networking sites, and any other electronic communication site, device, or means.
  • 280.28(2)(c) amending “trait or characteristic of the student” to include behavior, friendship or relationship with others, or any distinguishing characteristic. This paragraph shall be construed broadly to achieve the purposes of this section.
  • 280.28(3)(h) to require school district policies to include a procedure for prompt notification of the parents or guardians of all students directly involved in a reported incident of harassment or bullying.
  • 280.28(9) permitting school officials to investigate and impose school discipline for alleged incidents of harassment or bullying that occurs outside of school grounds, off of school property, or away from a school function or school-sponsored activity if: 1) a parent, guardian, student, school employee, or volunteer reports the incident pursuant to the school’s harassment and bullying policy and 2) the alleged incident of harassment or bullying has an effect on school grounds that creates an objectively hostile school environment meeting one or more of the conditions set out in 280.28(2)(b).

The Governor’s Office, BOEE, DE, UEN, IDPH, Iowa Psychological Association, Iowa Alliance of Boys and Girls Club, Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies Association, and StudentsFirst are registered for this bill; Concerned Women for America of Iowa and ACLU-IA are registered against. School Administrators of Iowa registered as undecided with a comment explaining concerns.

SSB 3149 is the proposed Senate Committee on Education bill. This bill is thirteen pages long and proposes the following changes to the Iowa Code:

  • adding definitions of harassment and bullying to section 256.2 and 272.1 that are the same as the definition of those terms in 280.28.
  • 256.7(33) directing the state board adopt rules incorporating the training required by 272.2(19) into the standards for individual teacher and administrator professional development plans.
  • 256.9(65) directing the director of the department of education to file an annual report on harassment and bullying in Iowa schools to the Iowa Legislature as well as publishing the report on the department website.
  • 256.100 establishing an office of harassment and bullying prevention and response in the department of education to coordinate and implement the state’s efforts to prevent and respond to harassment and bullying. The office shall employ a harassment and bullying investigation specialist, provide assistance to schools, administer the school climate improvement grant program, analyze data, and coordinate with IDPH on the Your Life Iowa initiative. The bill includes a $500,000 appropriation for various purposes including funding not more that 3.0 full-time equivalent positions.
  • 256.101 establishing a school climate improvement grant program. Grant money may be used to fund school programs or activities including staff training, assessment of compliance with 280.28, conflict resolution or dispute management including restorative justice strategies, peer helpers or peer mediation programs, school-wide positive behavior support, school-based diversion programs, classroom management, and research-based violence prevention programs. The bill includes a $500,000 appropriation to fund the grant program.
  • 272.2(19) directing the BOEE to adopt rules requiring all individuals applying for or renewing a license, certificate, authorization, or statement of recognition by the BOEE who have direct and consistent contact with students to complete training approved by the office of harassment and bullying prevention and response. [Note the wording on who is required is slightly different that in HSB 525.] The BOEE is also directed to adopt training rules for individuals responsible for conducting investigations and for administrators. [Also different from HSB 525.]
  • 280.28(2)(a) amending “electronic” to include social networking sites and applications. [Note this is different that language in HSB 525 and does not make any change to 280.28(2)(c) “trait or characteristic of the student.”]
  • 280.28(3)(h) requiring a procedure for documenting actions taken by the school to investigate and respond to harassment or bullying.
  • 280.28(7) making changes to reporting requirements to the department and the local community to include data collected under 280.28(6), the process used for filing complaints, and antiharassment and antibullying training completed by school employees, volunteers, and students.
  • 280.28(9) establishing a more detailed parental notification procedure for incidents of harassment and bullying than the one included in HSB 525.
  • 280.28(10) permitting school officials to investigate and impose school discipline for alleged incidents of harassment or bullying that occurs outside of school grounds, off of school property, or away from a school function or school-sponsored activity if the alleged incident of harassment or bullying has an effect on school grounds that creates an objectively hostile school environment meeting one or more of the conditions set out in 280.28(2)(b). [Note the absence of language requiring certain persons to have reported the alleged incident before the school officials may take action as in HSB 525.]
  • 280.28(11) granting rule-making authority to the department of education.

UEN and StudentsFirst are registered for this bill. Interestingly, ACLU-IA is currently registered as undecided on this bill, though I can’t see that it is substantially different from HSB 525 with regard to First Amendment concerns.

Links that may be of interest:

From this blog: Harassment and bullying legislation raises First Amendment issues and concerns about overly-broad definitions of bullying.

Joanne Jacobs on school district surveillance of student out-of-school social media use and zero tolerance policies discouraging other students from intervening to stop bullying or assaults.

Out in Left Field on various ways schools may inadvertently encourage bullying and strategies to reduce bullying.

A Blog About School on overly-broad definitions of bullying and bullying prevention programs.

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