Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday addressed the Governor's Bullying Prevention Summit in Des Moines. Today's remarks are below, as prepared for delivery:
Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds:
Some of you are shocked by what you just saw, and some of you live it every day.
If you are shocked by what you just witnessed on that video, then this summit is where you need to be.
All too often, we tend to be unaware that our kids deal with insults like these -- or it's tempting to turn a blind eye to such comments.
We dismiss it as just "kids being kids." We don't always acknowledge this issue because it's easier to hope it will go away.
But let me tell you, these comments are verbatim, they are real, and they are hurtful.
This conference is designed to shine a light on this problem. These remarks aren't confined to Waukee, they happen in virtually every school district in this state.
And so, we must turn our shock into action.
We need to shine a light, because by keeping these comments in the darkness, and ignoring them, we are keeping those students they affect in an even darker place.
In that place are thoughts of declining self-worth, declining grades, or worse.
While this video brought about shock, some of you likely felt sadness. If so, then this conference is also where you need to be.
We'll be discussing the factors that cause this behavior, ways to prevent this behavior and ideas to make our schools a safer place for learning.
Today's summit will help equip you with the information you need, the contacts you can utilize.
And the resolve to take action to prevent bullying of all kinds within our schools.
Remember – the most important thing WE do is treat each other with kindness and respect, now.
Please join me in welcoming on stage the Waukee students responsible for the great video you just watched.
It's my great pleasure to introduce:
-Beau Easley, a freshman at Iowa State University;
-Meg Goodson, a freshman at the University of Iowa;
-Mickey Sundermann, a Waukee High School Senior; and
-Sydni Rowen, a Waukee High School senior.
Thank you all for being here today. I admire the courage it took to produce such a candid video.
We know many positive things go on in our schools, but we also have to be honest about the negative things – or we cannot fully address them.
I'll now turn the podium over to Sydni Rowen to talk briefly about why she and the other students made the video.
…Thank you Sydni, and thank you to everyone attending the Governor's Bullying Prevention Summit today.
We appreciate the speakers and panelists from around the state and nation for sharing their expertise with us.
And thank you to the students in 23 schools across Iowa for your entries for the video contest. At noon, we'll have the opportunity view all 23 videos on what schools are doing to prevent bullying and what more could be done.
Education Department Director Jason Glass will announce the video contest winners at the close of the summit.
Now it's my great pleasure to introduce Gov. Terry Branstad, whose commitment to public service and to treating others with dignity & respect is unmatched by anyone I know.
Governor Terry E. Branstad
Thank you, Lt. Governor Reynolds. And thank you to everyone here today for making the time to attend the Governor's Bullying Prevention Summit.
I am proud that more than 1,100 Iowans have gathered for this critical conversation about how we can work together to stop bullying.
We know Iowa schools can't do it alone – that it takes the community. I deeply appreciate your commitment to making that happen.
But isn't it also surprising that we are here? Iowans enjoy a well-deserved reputation for being good neighbors. We are people who look out for each other. Treating each other with respect is a prized value.
Yet it's clear that it's time to have this conversation.
In the most recent Iowa Youth Survey of students in grades six, eight and 11, half of those surveyed reported being bullied at school in some way.
Whether in schools, on a school bus, elsewhere in the community, or in the digital world, bullying seems like a bigger problem than it used to be.
It is easy to point to changes in technology. Cell phones, tablets and computers have made 24/7 cyber-bullying possible – but they are not to blame.
The culture around us too often fosters a disregard for others that is unhealthy -- and sometimes dangerous. Incivility has become all too common in the workplace, in politics and on the road, as well as in social media.
Schools sometimes reflect this.
Being bullied can leave children at increased risk of depression and we know it can have tragic consequences – even becoming a potential factor in suicide.
The consequences of bullying are far-reaching and long lasting.
I want to share excerpts of three emails received after announcing the Governor's Bullying Prevention Summit would be held.
Here is the first one: "My family is now defined by bullying. It forces your child to grow up faster and there is an actual loss of just being a child. My child will forever be known as a ‘victim.' We will survive, but we are forever changed.
"My fear? I can't monitor my child on the bus. I can't monitor my child on the way home. I can't monitor my child in the hallways. I can't monitor my child in the cafeteria. The bully has the right to those same areas, even with recorded physical and verbal assaults.
"I guess it takes a suicide or critical injury to address a bully and their family. Get serious about this and take a hard look at addressing the bullies' parents."
Here is the second email: "I graduated from high school in 1979, and, after four-plus years of torture, I was publicly humiliated at my high school graduation. It's been 33 years since I graduated and I have never attended a reunion….
"Needless to say, what happened in my high school years has forever shaped me into the person I am today. In my heart, I feel that the children of today need to know what the long-term effects of bullying can be. The suicides nationwide are certainly horrific, but the ones who lived through it and suffer every day because of it have lessons to teach as well."
And here is the third email, from a student who also sent a video with a song she wrote about bullying: "Hi, I'm 15 and wrote this because of a personal experience. I did the video myself, too. I was not going to let them break me. Because in the end bullying is really about power. Why give anyone that satisfaction over you! I didn't, and I won't and I hope more and more kids don't, either."
We all recognize that we must do more to stop bullying, but we're often not sure how.
I am encouraged that awareness is growing that bullying is NOT a normal rite of passage in childhood – and that we must do more to prevent it.
From Sioux City to Marshalltown to Davenport, schools and their communities are stepping up to meet this challenge. Today we will learn more about their work.
The Iowa Department of Education earlier this year launched a new data collection system to provide a more accurate picture of bullying in schools. It also gives school leaders a clear definition of bullying.
In October, the Iowa Emergency Management Association District 6 sent a declaration of support for the efforts of my office and the Iowa Department of Education to eradicate bullying in Iowa's schools. We are grateful for their support.
And today, I am proud to announce the launch of a new bullying and suicide prevention resource – Your Life Iowa. This hotline and website, funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health in partnership with Boys Town, the Iowa Youth Advisory Committee and the Iowa Department of Education, will provide help to Iowans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Trained counselors will offer support and guidance to bullied youth who feel they have run out of options. Your-Life-Iowa-dot-org will also serve as a go-to resource where Iowans can get information about how to be part of the solution to ending bullying and youth suicide.
Numerous efforts are under way to stop bullying in Iowa. But we are a long way from where we need to be. So what do I hope we will accomplish today?
We must send a clearer message that schools alone cannot stop bullying, that it takes the community.
I hope we learn more about how to change the culture inside and outside schools -- with concrete steps -- so bullying is not tolerated.
Every student should know that if they report being bullied, adults will take them seriously and that other students will stand up for them in a nonviolent way.
We also need to examine whether state law can be strengthened to help schools better address bullying.
Together, we must be more engaged in the effort to prevent bullying.
Be an instrument for change, help our children feel safe, and use the information you gather here today as your charge to improve the lives of students for the better.
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