Organizers of the Annual Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth
said they had a record turnout this year of more than 600 people.
Thursday’s conference focused on youth, sexual orientation and
the bullying and discrimination often associated with it. But the
speakers stressed that anyone can be the victim of bullying.
Iowa has tried to attack to the problem of bullying in schools
with laws and legislation. Five years after an anti-bullying bill
was signed in 2007 educators say it’s still a big problem in
12 year Seth Conrad is a student at Southeast Polk Junior High
School and said he has been a victim of bullying.
“I want everyone to know how I feel when I am in a situation and
how I am being treated while being bullying,” said Seth.
Seth reported what was happening to his teachers. Seth’s
Assistant Principal Nathan Ballagh said unfortunately not every
student tells them about bullying as Seth did.
“6 out of 10 times students do not report the initial bullying to
us it’s not until something happens whether there is a verbal
conflict or physical conflict that we actually hear about it,”
said Nathan Ballagh.
Ballagh encourages his students to talk to him about the issue,
“I think the best piece of advice is listen to the kids. I get a
lot of reports of bullying harassment every day and you got to
listen to the kids and find out what’s really going on.”
Ballagh said he listens to every complaint, addresses it with all
students involved, and their parents if necessary. He said he
will also hand out consequences that can include calling in law
“Our philosophy has been to take it head on we know it`s a
problem. There’s not use in hiding behind it,” said Ballagh.
Dr. Eunice Merideth was on the original task force that lobbied
to pass the anti-bullying bill, and has since continued educating
people about the issue, including at Thursday’s Conference.
“There is nothing to be gained by being silent and the law is
there to protect the students to protect all students,” said Dr.
Eunice Merideth, “Where should they be if they can’t be at school
and where can they be safe if they are not safe at school?”
Speakers and organizers at the event said it’s not just about
awareness anymore- teachers, parents and kids need to learn how
to deal with bullying.
“I have been coming to this conference for years, I always get a
lot of good information, current information,” said Kandice
Bienfang-Lee, who came from Clear Lake for the conference, “I
work in a profession where I serve youth so I try to gather best
Students of all ages, like high schooler Jane Schmidt from
Waverly-Shell Rock High School also came to learn. “I just know
the importance of being educated on all types of issues and being
very inclusive of all students in schools,” said Schmidt.
Kids and educators attending the conference came from all over
the state. Organizers say the event not only helps educate,
it also allows students the opportunity to network with each
other and realize they are not alone.
Many of the workshops were standing room only. Organizers
attribute the crowd to the heightened awareness and interest in
the LBGTQ community in Iowa.