Iowa to consider anti-bullying bill

By Henry C. Jackson

Proposition would protect gay and lesbian students from harassment

DES MOINES Legislation that would protect gay and lesbian students from bullying has been given a boost by two key lawmakers.

A letter signed by Senate co-leaders Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, and Mary Lundby, R-Marion, calls for a vote on anti-bullying legislation next session. A bill proposing the reforms has circulated for three years but failed to clear both houses of the Legislature, despite bipartisan support.

“We can no longer afford a “‘sticks and stones’ attitude,’” according to the letter, which is being circulated by anti-bullying groups. “Name-calling and bullying have very serious consequences.”

Brad Clark, the executive director of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force, said his group his pushing for anti-bullying legislation, but he is not convinced the letter guarantees that the measure will clear the Legislature next session.

“It reinforces that this is a bipartisan issue,” he said. “In this season of political divide, that two leaders of two different political parties can come together on this is quite extraordinary.”

One reason Clark is skeptical is House Speaker Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, has said anti-bullying legislation should not offer protections to specific groups.

Rants said he will consider the measure if he is still speaker after November’s elections, though he remains doubtful on its premise.

“We need to protect fat kids, kids with glasses, kids who are too smart, kids who aren’t too smart. … Schools should be a safe place regardless of whatever sets you apart,” Rants said. “I think you need to be careful that you don’t start singling out kids for protection and leaving other kids behind.”

According the anti-bullying letter, 83.3 percent of gay and lesbian students in Iowa are verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and 33.6 percent are physically abused.

The letter reads: “This legislation is a bipartisan issue and brings people from all political perspectives together on a common value that all students deserve to be free from name-calling, violence, and harassment.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 29, 2006.

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