Category Archives: bullying

Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention

Governor Branstad signed Executive Order 86 yesterday, establishing the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention. The only copy of Executive Order 86 I can find today is oriented sideways, which makes it difficult to read, so I have uploaded a rotated copy here.

Below are the details of Executive Order 86, with comparisons to the provisions of the proposed Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015 (HSB 39). [Note that HSB 39 is currently numbered HF 490 and SF 345, but here, I just want to compare the bill as proposed by the Governor to Executive Order 86, as signed by the Governor.]

Executive Order 86 establishes the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention (“the Office”) within the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention (“the Center”).

Training

Ensure schools have access to training on establishing anti-bullying policies and conducting investigations of complaints pursuant to Iowa Code section 280.28.

HSB 39 would have required the director of the DE to ensure each district had adequate training, subject to appropriations of funds. HSB 39 would have appropriated $150,000 for training programs.

24-hour Hotline

Work with the Iowa DE and Iowa Department of Public Health to promote YourLifeIowa.org, an existing hotline.

Reporting Procedures

Work with the Iowa DE to develop a procedure for prompt notification of parents or guardians of the victims and alleged perpetrators in reported incidents of harassment of bullying.

HSB 39 would have required prompt notifications, but included an exception if a school official or a student who is a target of harassment or bullying reasonably believes notification would subject the targeted student to rejection, abuse, or neglect related to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

As I recall, the notification provision was a point of contention in the Legislature. This puts the development of notification procedures with a non-elected body.

Cyberbullying

Develop guidelines promoting safety from cyberbullying and how to respond to bullying that takes place electronically and interferes with learning at school.

HSB 39 would have expanded the definition of “electronic” to include social networking sites “or any other electronic communication site, device, or means.” HSB 39 would also have granted school officials express authority to investigate and impose school discipline for alleged incidents of harassment or bullying that occurs outside of school, off of school property, or away from a school function or school-sponsored activity.

As I recall, authority off school grounds was another point of contention in the Legislature. Again, this puts development of guidelines in a non-elected body. Question: does this provide sufficient assurance to school officials that they won’t be held liable for exercising authority off school grounds, such that they would feel comfortable adopting and acting according to guidelines as developed by the Office?

Data Collection

Work with schools and the Iowa DE to address inconsistencies in school reporting of bullying and harassment data.

Varsity Interscholastic Athletic Participation

Convene a working group to propose administrative rules to the State Board of Education to allow students subjected to harassment or bullying to open enroll to a new district and immediately participate in varsity athletics.

HSB 39 had a similar provision that would have required a founded incident of harassment or bullying in the resident district, and agreement from both the resident district and the receiving district that the student should be permitted to participate immediately in varsity athletics.

Bullying and prevention student mentoring pilot program

Promote a student mentoring program to promote student leadership to prevent and respond to bullying and violence in schools, and to spread best practices for preventing bullying and violence for middle and high school students.

HSB 39 would have required the DE to establish a student mentoring pilot program, subject to appropriations. HSB 39 would have appropriated $50,000 for the pilot program.

Radio Iowa reports that UNI will pay the initial costs of the Office and that Governor Branstad will request additional funding for the Office from the Legislature.

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Bully Free Iowa

The Governor’s proposed Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015 was scheduled to be considered by legislators in the Iowa House (HSB 39 subcommittee) and Senate (Senate Education Committee–SSB 1044) earlier today.

Radio Iowa reported yesterday that the main issues under discussion are the provision allowing for a student veto of parental notification of bullying incidents and the anti-bullying pilot projects (a legislator wants to ensure rural schools participate too). Apparently not being discussed? Limitations on school authority over student social media use outside of school.

Education Week reported last week on issues popping up in other states related to efforts to combat cyber-bullying, detailing controversies that have erupted as schools have attempted to take action, including the interpretation of Illinois law that school districts can require disclosure of student social media passwords previously blogged about here.

In the past two years, similar controversies have erupted around the country. In Minnesota, a student won a $70,000 settlement in March of last year from the 1,100-student Minnewaska Area school district after being forced to give school officials access to her Facebook account; in California, the 29,800-student Lodi Unified district came under harsh criticism for a policy that allowed school athletic coaches to suspend athletes for inappropriate postings made via social media; and in Alabama, the 23,000-student Huntsville City schools came under scrutiny following reports that it paid a security firm to monitor students’ public social-media posts.

Sonja H. Trainor, the director of the Council of School Attorneys for the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association, said schools should be wary of stepping onto a slippery legal slope.

“This is generally not an authority that school districts want to have, or that school attorneys would advise them to use very often at all,” Ms. Trainor said.”

Interestingly, the Urban Education Network of Iowa is registered in favor of HSB 39, the School Administrators of Iowa is registered in favor of SSB 1044, and the Iowa Association of School Boards is registered as undecided on both bills.

More from Education Week:

For school lawyers, the concerns extend beyond just possible infringements on students’ privacy and constitutional rights, said Ms. Trainor of the Council of School Attorneys.

“Once you get into the business of monitoring, then you’re potentially taking on liability for the things you might see,” she said.

“Any policy around student social media needs to be very, very cautious.”

I appreciate that legislators want to do something to protect Iowa students, but it seems to me that we need more debate on these issues and that if a bill is passed this year, it should include clear limits on what school administrators can and cannot do with regard to monitoring and accessing student social media accounts.

Bully Free Iowa and Student Passwords

Althouse has linked to a story about an anti-bullying law in Illinois which is reportedly being interpreted to allow school districts to require students or parents to provide them with student’s passwords to social media accounts to assist school district investigations of alleged incidents of bullying.

The Illinois law is similar to the Governor’s proposed Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015, in that it expands district authority over out of school online speech if it causes a substantial disruption to the educational process or the orderly operation of a school. Interestingly, the Illinois law notes that schools are not required to monitor student social media use out of school, though they do not appear to be prohibited from doing so.

Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015 [updated]

The Gazette reports today that Branstad, lawmakers seek to close gap on anti-bullying bill and that there were two sticking points to pass an anti-bullying bill last year: parent notification provisions and funding.

The 2015 bill (HSB 39), as proposed by the Governor, is three pages longer than his 2014 proposal (HSB 525). Below is a description of the provisions of the 2015 bill, with comparisons to 2014 anti-bullying bills (HSB 525 as proposed by the Governor, HF 2409, and SF2318).

Training

Subject to appropriations of funds, the director of the DE would be required to ensure that each school district has adequate training on conducting investigations of complaints of incidents of harassment or bullying by offering such training on an annual basis to at least one employee per district.

This is a change from the approach in HSB 525, which would have created an annual notification requirement by the DE to school districts and accredited nonpublic schools about the availability of training  and teacher license application or renewal rules requiring the completion of specified training, to the extent that training is made available by the state at no charge to the trainee.

Pilot Program

Subject to appropriations, the DE would be required to establish a student mentoring pilot program to explore how student leadership can help prevent bullying and violence in schools. The program shall promote best practices for bullying and violence prevention for middle and high school students. The pilot program shall be established in at least two middle schools and two high schools.

This is a new provision that was not included in HSB 525.

Definitions

The definition of “electronic” in 280.28(2)(a) would be expanded to include social networking sites “or any other electronic communication site, device, or means.” The definition of “trait or characteristic of the student” in 280.28(2)(c) would be expanded to include “behavior, friendship or relationship with others, or any other distinguishing characteristic” and  a direction is added to construe this paragraph broadly to achieve the purposes of this section (prohibiting harassment and bullying).

These modifications to the definitions of “electronic” and “trait or characteristic of the student” are identical to those proposed in HSB 525.

Parent Notification

School district anti-harassment and anti-bullying policy is required to include a provision for prompt notifications of the parents or guardians of all students directly involved in a reported incident of harassment of bullying. The procedure shall include an exception to the notification requirement if a school official or a student who is the target of harassment or bullying reasonably believes notification would subject the targeted student to rejection, abuse, or neglect related to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

This proposal is similar to the parent notification proposed in HSB 525. The exception is broadened by inclusion of the targeted student’s reasonable belief that notification would cause them harm and by the addition of rejection as a potential harm that would justify the decision not to notify the parents. However, it seems to narrow the exception in two ways. First, the exception is limited to targeted students and not other student participants who may also face rejection, abuse, or neglect if parents are notified of their behavior. Second, it seems that the exception is limited to students who may be rejected, abused, or neglected related to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression rather than just for any reason at all related to the notification.

SF  2318 would have delayed notification until after investigation and determination that harassment or bullying has occurred (rather than reported) but included the student in creation of the notification plan. The notification exception would apply if a school official reasonably believes notification would subject a student to abuse, neglect, or other physical or mental harm.

Authority Off School Grounds

A school official may investigate and impose school discipline or take other action in the case of an alleged incident of harassment or bullying that occurs outside of school, off of school property, or away from a school function or school-sponsored activity if 1) the incident is reported by a parent, guardian, student, school employee, or volunteer and 2) the alleged incident has an effect on school grounds that creates an objectively hostile school environment that meets one of more of the conditions set out in 280.28(2)(b). [Question: does school employee reporting open the door for schools to employ people for the purpose of, or assign employees to the duty of, surveillance of student social media use? Should it be limited to school employees who have had incidents reported to them by students, parents, or guardians?]

This language is identical to the proposed language in HSB 525.

Athletic Eligibility

Open enrollment high school students are typically ineligible to participate in varsity athletics during the first ninety school days of enrollment. An exception would be added for open enrollment students if the district of residence determines that the student was previously subject to a founded incident of harassment or bullying as defined in 280.28 while attending school in the district of residence and both the district of residence and the district of enrollment agree to allow the student to participate immediately in varsity athletics. [Question: if there is a founded incident of harassment or bullying, why should the district of residence be permitted to block athletic eligibility?]

This is a new provision that was not included in HSB 525. SF 2318 contained a similar athletic eligibility provision that would have required only the founded incident, but not agreement of both districts.

Appropriations

Appropriates $150,000 for training programs and $50,000 for the pilot program.

HSB 525 contained no appropriations, SF 2318 would have appropriate $250,000 to establish the office of support and analysis for safe schools, $150,000 of which would have been earmarked for providing training, and $750,000 for a school climate improvement grant program.

In his condition of the state address, the Governor said, “Together we can make 2015 the year Iowa acted to protect our children and grandchildren by ending bullying in schools.” The reality is that passing a bill is not going to end bullying in schools and passage of a bill is not required to empower any of us to model respectful and kind behavior or to talk to our children or our students about respectful and kind behavior. We would do well to remember that.

Update: here’s another take on the bill at Bleeding Heartland and a DE report on anti-bullying programming and projected expenditures for different levels of support (HT: Bleeding Heartland).

Legislative Update 1/18

There are currently twenty bills in the House Education Committee:

  • HF 5 by Fisher (R-Tama) relating to adding the position of principal to the category of operational functions that receive supplementary weighting. [Subcommittee: Dolecheck (R-Ringgold), Fry (R-Clarke), and Ruff (D-Clayton).]
  • HF 12 by Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Story) relating to the establishment of an academic coaching endorsement (to coach students and work with other practitioners to improve student academic performance and progress) by the BOEE. [Subcommittee: Koester (R-Polk), Abdul-Samad (D-Polk), and Mommsen (R-Clinton).]
  • HF 13 by Jorgensen (R-Woodbury) and twelve co-sponsors eliminating the school start date limitation and related waiver and penalty provisions. [Subcommittee: Forristall (R-Pottawattamie), Stanerson (R-Linn), and Winckler (D-Scott).] The Iowa Catholic Conference, School Administrators of Iowa, and the Iowa Association of School Boards are registered in favor of the bill. The Iowa Lodging Association, the Iowa Restaurant Association, the Association of Iowa Fairs, the Okoboji Tourism Committee, and the Travel Federation of Iowa are registered against the bill.
  • HF 36 by Hunter (D-Polk) establishing a worker shortage loan forgiveness program.
  • HSB 7 proposed by the BOEE making a statutory correction regarding the employment of the executive director of the BOEE. [Subcommittee: Gassman (R-Winnebago), Brown-Powers (D-Black hawk), and Salmon (R-Black Hawk).]
  • HSB 8 proposed by the BOEE relating to timelines for investigating complaints and determining probable cause. [Subcommittee: Gassman (R-Winnebago), Highfill (R-Polk), and Staed (D-Linn).] The Iowa State Education Association is registered against this bill.
  • HSB 9 proposed by the DE relating to licensure of childcare programs operated or contracted for by a school district or accredited nonpublic school. This is the prefiled bill that would leave DHS the sole agency authorized to license childcare programs, including before and after school programs. [Subcommittee: Fry (R-Clarke), Mascher (D-Johnson), and Salmon (R-Black Hawk).] The Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa and YMCA State Alliance are registered in favor of this bill.
  • HSB 10 proposed by the College Student Aid Commission relating to the duties of the college student aid commission. [Subcommittee: Forristall (R-Pottawattamie), Stanerson (R-Linn), and Winckler (D-Scott).]
  • HSB 11 proposed by the DE relating to the duties and authority of the state board of education and the DE, a prefiled bill blogged about in more detail here. [Subcommittee: Hanusa (R-Pottawattamie), Gassman (R-Winnebago), and Ruff (D-Clayton).]
  • HSB 12 proposed by the DE relating to eligibility requirements for the gap tuition assistance program. [Subcommittee: Byrnes (R-Mitchell), Gaines (D-Polk), and Mommsen (R-Clinton).]
  • HSB 13 proposed by the DE establishing an Iowa principal leadership institute advisory council. [Subcommittee: Dolecheck (R-Ringgold), Mommsen (R-Clinton), and Staed (D-Linn).]
  • HSB 14 proposed House Committee on Education bill relating to interstate reciprocity agreements enter into, administered, or recognized by the college student aid commission. [Subcommittee: Stanerson (R-Linn), Salmon (R-Black Hawk), and Winckler (D-Scott).]
  • HSB 15 proposed House Committee on Education bill relating to the limitation on the annual amount of an Iowa tuition grant paid to a qualified student, removing the $5,000 cap. [Subcommittee: Stanerson (R-Linn), Brown-Powers (D-Black Hawk), and Dolecheck (R-Ringgold).]
  • HSB 16 proposed by the DE making districts receiving teacher leadership supplemental aid payments ineligible to also receive payments under the beginning teacher mentoring and induction program. [Subcommittee: Dolecheck (R-Ringgold), Highfill (R-Polk), and Steckman (D-Cerro Gordo).] The Iowa State Education Association is registered against this bill.
  • HSB 17 proposed House Committee on Education bill relating to transitional coaching authorizations issued by the BOEE. [Subcommittee: Gassman (R-Winnebago), Byrnes (R-Mitchell), and Hanson D-Jefferson).]
  • HSB 18 proposed by the DE relating to payment of costs for educational services for children residing in certain psychiatric hospitals or institutions. Among other provisions, this bill would appear to relieve the district of residence of the responsibility to pay tuition for children placed in psychiatric hospitals or institutions voluntarily by parents. [Subcommittee: Fry (R-Clarke), Cohoon (D-Des Moines), and Koester (R-Polk).]
  • HSB 19 proposed House Committee on Education bill requesting a legislative interim committee to evaluate use of SAVE funds, consider proposals for additional or alternative uses of SAVE funds, and consider and extension of the repeal date (423F.6 currently sets the repeal date for December 31, 2029). [Subcommittee: Highfill (R-Polk), Hanson (D-Jefferson), and Jones (R-Clay).]
  • HSB 36 proposed by the BOEE relating to information the BOEE is required to review regarding applicants for license renewal. [Subcommittee: Mommsen (R-Clinton), Abdul-Samad (D-Polk), and Koester (R-Polk).]
  • HSB 38 proposed House Committee on Education bill relating to certain costs under the statewide preschool program. [Subcommittee: Koester (R-Polk), Hanusa (R-Pottawattamie), and Mascher (D-Johnson).]
  • HSB 39 proposed by the Governor. This is the “Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015”. [Subcommittee: Stanerson (R-Linn), Byrnes (R-Mitchell), and Mascher (D-Johnson).]

There are currently five bills in the Senate Education Committee, three of which were prefiled by Johnson and blogged about in more detail here:

  • SF 4 by Johnson (R-Osceola) relating to open enrollment of students in online learning programs. [Subcomittee: Dvorsky (D-Johnson), Johnson (R-Osceola), and Quirmbach (D-Story).] The Iowa State Education Association is registered against this bill.
  • SF 5 by Johnson (R-Osceola) authorizing the executive director of the BOEE to waive subject assessment requirements for teacher licensure. [Subcomittee: Dvorsky (D-Johnson), Johnson (R-Osceola), and Quirmbach (D-Story).]
  • SF 6 by Johnson (R-Osceola) relating to dropout prevention programs and funding. [Subcommittee: Quirmbach (D-Story), Hogg (D-Linn), and Johnson (R-Osceola).]
  • SF 16 by Zaun (R-Polk) repealing the Iowa Core Curriculum. [Subcomittee: Dvorsky (D-Johnson), Quirmbach (D-Story), and Zaun (R-Polk).] The School Administrators of Iowa, the Iowa State Education Association, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and the Iowa Chamber Alliance are registered against this bill.
  • SF 17 by Sodders (D-Marshall), upon quick inspection this bill looks to be identical to HF 5, though they are not currently listed as related bills. [Subcommittee: Bowman (D-Jackson), Schoenjahn (D-Fayette), and Sinclair (R-Wayne).]

Together We Can [updated]

Governor Branstad delivered his 2015 Condition of the State Address to a joint session of the Iowa Legislature this morning.

The Governor referenced past education efforts in establishing the “most extensive teacher leadership system in the nation” and having “invested historically in our children’s future through transformational education reform.”

Otherwise, the Governor’s K-12 education comments focused largely on his proposed Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015. The details announced today include parental notification provisions, a bullying prevention program, investigator training, and a provision to allow immediate athletic participation if a student changes schools due to bullying.

The Connect Every Acre broadband expansion plan is being pitched as key to modernizing farming, although schools are mentioned in the title of the “Iowa Farms, Schools and Communities Broadband Grant Program.” [Note that broadband expansion is essential for the move to online statewide assessments, in addition to other education initiatives like 1:1 programs.]

The Governor did not reference Iowa Core standards as a past accomplishment to strengthen Iowa schools, nor did he reference the Common Core aligned assessments that are sure to be an issue this session; the task force recommendations are in and we are running short of time to prepare for administering new assessments in the 2016-2017 school year, particularly if technology and infrastructure upgrades will be required.

The Governor made a reference to Iowa children counting on us to give them a world-class education, yet failed to reference his supplemental state aid proposal. Radio Iowa reports that he is proposing a supplemental state aid increase of about $50 million or 1.75 percent. This falls far short of the six percent some have been hoping for.

Update: The Gazette calculates the Governor’s $50 million supplemental state aid proposal to be a 1.25 percent increase and reports that the Governor has proposed supplemental state aid of $100 million or 2.45 percent in 2017. It bears repeating here that the teacher leadership system funding will be costing the state $150 million per year by 2017.

Update: the Iowa Association of School Boards has analyzed the Governor’s school aid recommendations for 2016 and 2017.

Legislative Update 1/7

The 2015 legislative session starts in five days and the DE has prefiled two more proposed bills.

The first would end the DE’s involvement in oversight of child care programs and before and after school programs operated or contracted by school districts or accredited nonpublic schools. This bill would leave DHS as the sole state agency responsible for licensing these programs.

The second is a technical corrections and efficiencies bill. This bill would make changes to the program for attending school out of the state [282.8](for Iowa students for whom schools across the state line are closer than the public school of residence), whole grade sharing agreements [282.10], open enrollment [282.18], and budget adjustment [257.14].

This bill would repeal the teacher exchange program [256.7(15), 279.55-279.57], pilot projects to improve instructional programs [256.19], and the requirement that local school boards, if they participate in local, regional, and national organizations, annually report to the local community and the DE the amount the board pays in annual dues, the amount of fees paid and revenue or dividend payments received for services the board receives from the organization, and the products or services the school district received inclusive with membership in the organization [279.38A].

The bill would also strike the following duties of the director of the DE: to print in book form all school laws every four years [256.9(26)] and distribute annually any amendments or changes in the school laws as prescribed in subsection 26 [256.9(27)]; to develop a model written publications code including reasonable provisions for the regulation of the time, place, and manner of student expression [256.9(36)]; to administer the teacher exchange program [256.9(40)]; to submit an annual report to the general assembly by January 1 regarding activities, findings, and student progress under the Iowa Core Curriculum [256.9(54)] (question: is this the annual condition of education report?); and, to report to the general assembly annually about the necessity of waiving any statutory obligations for school districts due to a disaster [256.9(59)].

The bill would also strike the requirement for the DE to annually report statewide progress on student achievement scores in mathematics and reading at the fourth and eighth grade levels on a district-by-district basis, evaluator training program, and changes and improvements in evaluation of teachers under the Iowa teaching standards [284.12]. 284.12 would be further amended to change the requirement for the DE, in developing administrative rules for consideration by the state board, to consult with specified persons to instead consult with stakeholders who might reasonably be affected by the proposed rule.

It might be more efficient to remove reporting requirements, but that doesn’t seem to be a move towards maintaining or improving government transparency. It makes sense to end requirements to provide print copies if the DE will still be required to make electronic copies of the same materials available. And, if the reporting requirement results in annual reports that there is nothing to report (maybe there aren’t many disasters that require waivers, for example) or the reported information is also reported in another required report, it might make sense to repeal the reporting requirement. But if these changes are meant to allow the DE and local school boards to operate with less transparency, I am not in favor of that. If anyone better understands these changes, please explain in a comment.

According to my Twitter feed, anti-bullying legislation and school start dates, plus supplemental state aid are the big education issues. We will see if assessment and broadband upgrades for schools rate a mention in Governor Branstad’s Condition of the State address on Tuesday, January 13 at 10:00 am.

Also learned on Twitter today: