More than 1100 Iowa educators, students and community members from across the state came to Des Moines Tuesday for Governor Branstad’s first Bullying Prevention Summit. As Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports the message was not just about how to respond to bullying, but how to prevent it.
Governor Branstad told the audience schools alone cannot stop bullying… that it takes the community. In one breakout session Ella Daft, the president of the Gay Straight alliance at Newton Senior High School spoke about being rejected from her previous private school for being a lesbian. One audience member, who identified herself as coming from a strong Christian education, asked Daft how it should be handled when students come out as gay or lesbian.
“Your beliefs are wonderful, they’re a part of your identity, hold on to them," Daft said. "But when your beliefs are to cause someone pain because you do not see them as equal to you or they are not necessary in your life that’s not what religion is for.”
Daft said when religion is used to cause harm rather than help it’s equally as powerful. During the summit Governor Branstad also announced the launch of "Your Life Iowa," A hotline and website staffed 24/7 by counselors to offer services to students who are bullied or suicidal.