A deeply troubling Jan. 13 Journal story about an alleged case of online bullying targeted at a Sioux City teen in which some of his fellow students reportedly cast votes on whether the 15-year-old boy should be killed raised a question in our minds we have asked in this space before.
What happened to the issue of bullying at the Iowa Statehouse?
Between 2011 and 2015, bullying moved from the shadows to the spotlight in Iowa.
The documentary film "Bully," in which a former Sioux City student victim of bullying was profiled, drew national interest, including consideration for an Academy Award nomination. Two statewide bullying summits were convened in Des Moines. Governor Terry Branstad hosted a series of bullying forums, including one in Sioux City. Bullying was a priority issue for debate in three consecutive legislative sessions. In a February 2015 Des Moines Register poll, 73 percent of Iowans answered "favor" to the following question: "Do you favor or oppose authorizing school personnel to react to bullying by notifying parents and disciplining students even when the incident takes place away from school, including through social media?" The state Senate passed anti-bullying legislation during the 2015 legislative session, 43-7. In September 2015, Branstad issued an executive order through which he established the Governor's Office for Bullying Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa.
In other words, momentum was building for substantive improvements in how we as a state approach this problem.
Then, bullying seemingly dropped from the radar screen of state government. The Legislature virtually ignored the issue in 2016 and 2017.
For us, the question is this: As a state, are we doing everything we can to prevent bullying of Iowa students?
Because we believe we can and should do more and better, we urge Gov. Kim Reynolds and state lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle and in both chambers to commit to an invigoration of anti-bullying discussion and move the issue back to the prominent place on Iowa's agenda it belongs and once enjoyed. We suggest lawmakers use the Senate bill passed in 2015 as a starting point for a fresh, comprehensive examination of this subject. Embrace a leave-no-stone-unturned approach.
Frankly, this issue needs a champion or champions in Des Moines. Who will step forward and breathe new life into what we view as an incomplete discussion aimed at protecting children in Iowa from an unacceptable scourge?