In an effort to combat bullying in Iowa schools, Gov. Terry Branstad signed an executive order Monday that establishes the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention, designed to provide schools with resources to create a more “Safe and respectful” learning environment.
Branstad signed the order alongside Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds while attending a ceremony at Arthur Elementary School in Cedar Rapids.
The move could be viewed as a tacit response to the Iowa legislature’s failed attempts to pass anti-bullying legislation in recent years, including a Branstad-approved plan in 2015 that died in the Iowa House.
The order will establish the Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention. The office will provide schools with access to training and resources in order to establish anti-bullying and harassment investigation policies. The office will also work to address data inconsistencies with regard to how schools report bullying and harassment incidents, develop guidelines to better combat cyber-bullying and work with the Iowa Department of Education to develop prompt parent notification procedures.
The order also establishes a student mentor pilot program, a holdover from 2015’s failed anti-bullying legislation, which will attempt to foster student leadership as a means of bullying prevention. Once operational, the pilot program will engage with middle and high school students directly to promote “best practices” for preventing and responding to school harassment, the order states.