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Iowa lawmakers
urge vote on bullying protections for gay students

Iowa lawmakers
urge vote on bullying protections for gay students

Legislation that 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)

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