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Tim Hynds Sioux City Journal 

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, left, listens as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds answers a question from the Sioux City Journal Editorial Board Friday. Reynolds said after several failed attempts by the state legislature to pass stronger K-12 anti-bullying measures, the state has been using alternative efforts to encourage schools to dissuade bullying.

Reynolds on anti-bullying efforts: 'We shouldn't stop.'

SIOUX CITY | After the failure of a 2015 bill followed by two years of inaction by the Iowa Legislature on statewide K-12 anti-bullying measures, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said her office has instead encouraged local districts to adopt stronger practices. 

Asked about anti-bullying efforts during a Friday interview with The Journal's editorial board, Reynolds did not express optimism about a legislative anti-bullying bill this year. But she did commend efforts by some districts to expand programs such as Mentors in Violence Prevention, a program used in some schools including Sioux City that trains students to mentor each other about violence and bullying.

"We've tried to maybe come at it from a different approach where we're working with the school districts and, you know, encouraging them from a local perspective to make sure that they have some type of monitoring in place or that they're addressing it within their system, that they're reporting things accurately," she said.

"We shouldn't stop," she added. "If I can't get it through the Legislature, then we have to find different alternatives to make sure that we're reaching out to school districts."

Reynolds' comments follow an incident earlier this month in which a Sioux City mother said she pulled her 15-year-old son out of North High School after other students harassed him by posting a survey online asking if he should be killed. The mother said she was unhappy with the way the school handled the incident that involved her son, who has autism.  

Reynolds called the report of the incident "horrific." 

"That is really the downside of social media, that they're not really looking each other in the face and see that hurt and the anguish that that causes individuals," she said. 

Photos: Iowa Gov. Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Gregg editorial board

State lawmakers have wrestled for years over comprehensive anti-bullying legislation for K-12 schools, including measures that would discourage harassment over social media outside of school. Reynolds' predecessor, Terry Branstad, championed anti-bullying measures during his second stint as governor, and Reynolds has said she plans to support continued efforts to reduce it in schools.

Efforts over the past five years to strengthen such measures statewide, however, have fizzled. After three unsuccessful attempts to pass stronger anti-bullying legislation in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the Iowa Legislature has not taken action the past two years. 

Branstad in 2015 created the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention through an executive order. But the office, housed within the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention, has struggled to receive enough state funding

Reynolds on Friday emphasized the role that families should play in talking about civility. She also commended Sioux City for taking a proactive approach to the issue.

Sioux City Community School District has claimed to have made major strides in combating bullying after attracting national attention for the 2011 film, "Bully," which featured an East Middle School student being tormented by peers. 

Sioux City again received national attention after a 2011 front-page Journal editorial that called for a pro-active approach to stop bullying after a gay teen bullied at another Northwest Iowa high school took his own life. 

Reynolds touts need for workforce development to Sioux City leaders

SIOUX CITY | Gov. Kim Reynolds brought the Unleashing Opportunities tour of the state to Sioux City Friday, where she told business leaders, local lawmakers and city officials that she's pushing to improve worker training.

"Future Ready Iowa will have a real impact on Iowa," Reynolds told 150 guests at a luncheon sponsored by the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Sioux City Country Club.

The Republican governor was citing the program that the governor said will improve job prospects of 127,000 Iowans to bolster their educational achievement and workplace skills. Reynolds said Future Ready Iowa was her top priority in the Legislature for 2018, something she mentioned in the annual Condition of the State address to lawmakers last week as the year's legislative machinations began.

Her Friday message continued Reynolds' desire to boost workforce development, as she also stated in the September 2017 Tri-State Governors Conference in Sioux City.

The governor's initiative aims to ensure that 70 percent of workers in Iowa have received training or education beyond high school. Currently, 50 percent of Iowa workers have such training.

"I am going to get you a quote, write it down," Reynolds said in airing the 127,000 number of the additional people who will get advanced training within eight years.

Reynolds will request $2.6 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to launch the program.

Iowa had a 2.9 percent unemployment rate in November, well below the national rate of 4.1 percent. Reynolds said employers consistently express concern over being unable to find qualified workers for job openings.

Reynolds said she supports a scholarship to help people get two-year college degrees in high-demand job fields, along with an expanded Iowa registered apprenticeship program for small- and mid-sized employers.

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, the Hawarden, Iowa, native who spoke with Reynolds, said there are currently 59,318 open jobs in the state, as summarized by the Iowa Workforce Development website.

"We want to make sure we have opportunity and prosperity in every corner of Iowa," Gregg said.

In a question from the audience, Sioux City School District Superintendent Paul Gausman asked if Reynolds thinks a 1-cent sales tax that delivers money for school building projects will be extended beyond the current sunset of 2029.

Gausman said a continuing known stream of money is the only way the school district will be able to close old elementary schools and build new ones.

Regarding the outlook by legislators on that possible tax extension, Reynolds said, "There is still division on whether we should or shouldn't."

The one-cent sales tax has been in place in the city school district dating to the 1990s, and is estimated to give $14.2 million in 2018-19.

Tim Hynds Sioux City Journal 

Gov. Kim Reynolds, shown answering a question from The Journal Editorial Board, pitched her workforce development priorities to Sioux City business leaders at a lunch Friday.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Ron Schultz, a longtime Briar Cliff men's basketball assistant coach, talks to players during a team practice in Sioux City on Monday.