- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation that would give teachers and administrators more authority to respond to school bullying in Iowa passed the Senate on Tuesday, though it’s unclear what version of the bill may advance in the House.

The Senate voted 43-7 in support of the bill, which would give educators the power to investigate cases of bullying off school grounds and sets guidelines on responding to such cases. It also lets them determine, along with an affected student, if a parent should be informed about a case if doing so might harm the student.

“The basic principle that we have on this legislation is that every Iowa student deserves a safe learning environment at school,” said Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who led the bill on the floor.

The bill now heads to the House, where lawmakers are considering a similar measure. The key difference is $200,000 in funding in the House bill for teacher training and a student pilot program. The Senate bill has the same programs but Hogg removed the appropriation earlier in the session. He said at the time that he wanted to secure the funding through a different legislative process.

That funding removal drew concern Monday from some senators, who debated the bill briefly before moving the vote to Tuesday.

“We’re going to pass a bill, we’re going to get a headline, we’re going to send out a press release, and we’re going to act like we did something, and I don’t know if we really did do anything,” said Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines.

Rep. Quentin Stanerson, R-Center Point, who is leading the bill in the House, said shortly before Tuesday’s vote that he wasn’t sure how his chamber will proceed. Stanerson said he feels strongly that funding should remain in the bill.

The Iowa Legislature passed a measure in 2007 that requires school districts to have a policy on responding to bullying. This bill would add more guidelines, including expanding language on cyberbullying to include social media. There would also be the rule on parental notification and the creation of a work group to keep examining bullying issues.

Lawmakers have attempted in previous sessions to expand the state’s anti-bullying law. Last year, the House and Senate could not agree on funding.

Gov. Terry Branstad, who made anti-bullying efforts a priority this session, released a statement Tuesday applauding the Senate vote.

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