would protect gay and lesbian students from bullying at
school has been given a boost by two key lawmakers in Des
Moines, Iowa. A letter signed by senate coleaders Mike
Gronstal, a Democrat, and Mary Lundby, a
Republican, calls for a vote on antibullying
legislation next session. A bill proposing the reforms has
circulated for three years but failed to clear both
houses of the legislature, despite bipartisan support.
"We can no longer afford a 'sticks and stones'
attitude,'" according to the letter, which is being
circulated by antibullying groups. "Name-calling and
bullying have very serious consequences."
Brad Clark is the executive director of the Gay
Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth in Iowa Schools
Task Force. His group is pushing for antibullying
legislation, but he is not convinced the letter guarantees
that the measure will clear the legislature next session.
"It reinforces that this is a bipartisan issue,"
he said of the letter. "In this season of political
divide, that two leaders of two different political
parties can come together on this is quite extraordinary."
One reason Clark is skeptical is because house
speaker Christopher Rants has said antibullying
legislation should not offer protections to specific
groups. Rants said he will consider the measure if he is
still speaker after November's elections, though he
remains doubtful about its premise.
"We need to protect fat kids, kids with glasses,
kids who are too smart, kids who aren't too smart....
Schools should be a safe place regardless of whatever
sets you apart," Rants said. "I think you need to be
careful that you don't start singling out kids for
protection and leaving other kids behind."
According to the antibullying letter, 83.3% of
gay and lesbian students in Iowa are verbally harassed
because of their sexual orientation, and 33.6% are
physically abused. The letter reads: "This legislation is a
bipartisan issue and brings people from all political
perspectives together on a common value that all
students deserve to be free from name-calling,
violence, and harassment." (Henry C. Jackson, AP)