Iowa Students Invited to Share Anti-Bullying Ideas

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa students are being invited to share their ideas on ways to prevent bullying with the possibility of making a little money for their schools in the process.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds used their weekly news conference Monday to announce a contest whereby all Iowa middle schools and high schools are being invited to submit a video about what their school is doing to prevent bullying and what more might be done to curb the problem. The effort is in conjunction with the governor's bullying prevention summit, which will be held Nov. 27 in Des Moines.

Branstad said he hopes to assemble a group of world-class experts to address problems associated with bullying that takes place both in person and online. He said the focus of the summit will be to share ideas and possibly look at ways to strengthen Iowa's laws, although he acknowledged that's a difficult proposition because many issues related to the use of social media as it relates to bullying bump up against free-speech protections and there is a "delicate balance" regarding the role of government, school administrators, parents and individuals in defining inappropriate interactions.

"There are a lot of questions as to what authority schools have over things that occur on the Internet. I don't know if I have the answer for that exactly," he said. "A lot of schools are kind of frustrated. Some of the most severe bullying is now happening in social media, not necessarily on the school grounds. Those are some of the legal issues that will be discussed."

To that end, Branstad said he hoped the videos that students produce on the theme "preventing bullying in your school and beyond" will provide a broad perspective from students, teachers, school administrators, parents and community leaders. He hoped students would use the opportunity to tell their school's story about how bullying is being stopped, what more might be done, and how to better engage the community as a whole in bullying prevention efforts.

Videos that meet all contest guidelines will be posted to the governor's YouTube channel, with the public invited to choose their favorite between Nov. 12 and Nov. 21 using the guidelines may be found at the https://preventbullying.iowa.gov/ Web site. The top vote-getter – announced at the Nov. 27 summit -- will receive a $500 prize to be used for bullying prevention efforts at their school, along with a visit by the governor and lieutenant governor for an all-school assembly.

"We need to treat people with respect and dignity. That is what this summit on bullying is all about," the governor noted.

However, Branstad said that goes beyond just the school environment – applying it as well to what he viewed as a smear campaign against BPI's finely textured beef product but declining to expand the discussion to the current political advertising environment. The governor said he did not how a lawsuit that the meat processor brought against ABC News will turn out, but he told reporters he hopes it "makes other people think about the language that they use and that they need to be careful to be honest and accurate with their descriptions and not use charged words and smear the language."

On another topic, Branstad laughed off a contention made Sunday by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, head of the Democratic Governors Association, that his party intends to win the Iowa governorship in 2014.

Branstad, who served four terms from 1983-99 before returning to Terrace Hill for a fifth term by winning the 2010 election, noted the DGA spent nearly $800,000 during that primary cycle trying to "smear me as a liberal" but "it didn't work." He declined to say whether the comments moved him any closer to announcing he would make a bid for an unprecedented sixth, four-year term as Iowa governor in 2014.

"I never react to the opponents' strategy. I always have my own timetable and agenda," Branstad told reporters.

"My focus is on Iowa," he added. "We're proud of what we've accomplished, but we know we have a lot more to do."
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