Governor Culver Signs Bill Making Iowa 10th State to Pass Comprehensive Safe Schools Legislation
NEW YORK – Less than a week after Iowa legislators in both houses passed a comprehensive safe schools bill, Governor Chet Culver has signed the bill into law this afternoon. The new law will protect all students from bullying and harassment, specifically enumerating categories that include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity among others.
The landmark bill, which was passed with bipartisan support, makes Iowa just the 10th state to protect students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and only the fifth to protect students on the basis of gender expression.
"Iowa has joined the small but growing group of states that are proactively addressing the crucial issue of student safety," said Kevin Jennings, Founder and Executive Director of GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. "Feeling safe in school is directly related to academic achievement and student success. Iowa’s education system got a little bit better today.
"We thank Governor Culver for signing this bill into law, Senator Mike Connolly and Rep. Roger Wendt for guiding the bill through the House and Senate, and every legislator who supported and voted to protect Iowa’s students."
The new law sets in motion a number of important steps that the state, local school districts, educators and students must commit to: state rulemaking, local school district policy development, educator training, information sharing with students and guardians, and implementation.
Passage of the comprehensive Iowa bill is particularly noteworthy because research shows that safe schools laws that specifically enumerate protected categories are more effective than laws that do not.
"The most effective way to protect students from bullying and harassment is through comprehensive policies like this one," Jennings said.
"We congratulate Brad Clark at the Iowa Safe Schools Coalition and the GLBT Youth in Iowa Task Force for all of their tireless work bringing this landmark day to pass. We are proud to have been able to partner with them to advance their crucial efforts on behalf of Iowa’s students."
GLSEN is committed to assisting state coalitions that seek to pass such safe schools legislation with information and advice on effective legislative language and relevant research on the educational impact of interventions to improve school climate.
In GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey, chronicling the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in schools, LGBT students who were covered by a comprehensive safe school policy that specifically protects sexual orientation were less likely to report being harassed at school (31.6% vs. 40.8%), far more likely to tell school officials when incidents of harassment occurred (26.4% vs. 16.1%) and more than twice as likely to have a teacher intervene when harassment occurred versus students covered by a non-enumerated, or "generic," policy. In fact, having a non-enumerated policy in place made virtually no difference to student experience versus having no anti-bullying policy at all.
Enumerated anti-bullying policies also have a beneficial effect for the student population as a whole, LGBT and non-LGBT alike: From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a GLSEN-commissioned, nationally-representative study of middle and high school students and teachers, found that students whose schools have a policy that specifically includes sexual orientation or gender identity/expression are less likely than other students to report a serious harassment problem at their school (33% vs. 44%).
Besides Iowa, the nine other states to include protection for sexual orientation in a safe schools law are California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Only California, Maine, Minnesota and New Jersey also include gender expression.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN¹s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.