(DES MOINES, IA) - A political battle in Des Moines puts the breaks on a bill to stop bullying and could kill it completely. Some state representatives want to end "cyber-bullying", but some Iowa Republicans aren't buying it.
It's been a year since the release of the award-winning film "Bully" that was partially shot in Sioux City. Since then, Iowa lawmakers have been working on legislation to help students fight the issue. The students Siouxland News talked with on Tuesday said bullying still exists and changes are necessary at school and online. "People make fun of people because of how they look or their weight or they don't dress right," said Haley Howard, an eighth grader at East Middle. "Sometimes it gets pushed aside. Sometimes they think that we're just playing around because we're friends and they don't really know what's happening. So they just leave it alone," said East High freshman Rosemarie Zacarias. "I see a lot of people always crying everyday and stuff. I think it needs to be helped," said Susannah Diberardino, an East Middle eighth grader. That's what Iowa lawmakers want to do: help protect bullied students. But the bill could fall short, if the GOP doesn't bring it up for debate. "It's frustrating to hear House Republicans are willing to let the bill to die when so much effort and good bi-partisan work has already occurred thus far," said Sioux City Democrat Chris Hall. Hall explained despite the current stall, there's strong support for the anti-bullying legislation. He's been working with the governor's office to improve the language and move it along. "Governor Branstad will not stop fighting against bullying and he will continue working with both parties in both legislative chambers to ensure that all Iowa children will have a safe learning environment at school," said Tim Albrecht, Communications Director for the Iowa Governor's Office. All three students said they feel their staff should be able to go online and see if "cyber-bullying" is happening. "If it happens online, then it usually goes into the school, but then they say they can't do anything for what happened online," said Howard. "It would help a lot because sometimes we can't like help it. We're too scared to say something to an adult or something and when an adult does say something, we say no," said Zacarias.
If House Republican leaders are unwilling to bring up the bill for debate by Friday, it would kill it. However, lawmakers could tack on the bill's language to other legislation. Albrecht said he wants to see something happen this session.