A clear definition is missing from Iowa’s anti-bullying legislation and that leaves some educators feeling like their hands are tied.
Mindy Fisher, a learning support specialist with Waterloo Schools, feels the law makes it difficult for the schools. "Sometimes it’s really hard. There’s a piece of Iowa code that talks about perception. What one person perceives to be bullying, may not be. It makes it very hard," said Fisher.
Core Turner, also with Waterloo Schools, agrees. "I do feel the definition of bullying needs to be expanded or explained. Not all are bullying issues," said Turner.
Turner brings up a good point. We have to define the differences and you can break it down into three groups: is the behavior rude, meaning inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts people?
Is it mean? Purposely saying or doing something to hurt someone once or maybe twice.
Or is it bullying...meaning is there intentional aggressive behavior repeated over time that involves an imbalance of power.
I sat down with State Senator Jeff Danielson who agrees, the Legislature may need to take a second look at the law that was passed in 2006.
"We may be at that point where we need to strengthen it. But I don't think we should be looking at criminal law. We need to figure out how to make our young people better citizens, not criminals," said Danielson.
New Jersey has the county’s toughest anti-bullying legislation. If proven, a bully faces suspension, expulsion and or criminal charges.
But what works there, may not work here.
Senator Danielson said, "I think we can raise awareness but I don't believe in cut and paste legislation. Iowa should have an Iowa solution."
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