Friday, November 30, 2012

Iowa Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit

On November 27, 2012 Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds held the Iowa Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit in Des Moines, Iowa. This summit was intended to raise awareness about the pervasive problem of bullying, and to send the strongest possible message that our schools alone cannot stop it, that communities must become more engaged in taking the steps needed to address this issue.

Although awareness is growing, many Iowans may be surprised at the extent of bullying that takes place at school, from teasing to major incidents that make the news. The 2010 Iowa Youth Survey reported 50 percent of students surveyed said that in the last 30 days they had been bullied at school in one of the following ways: “I was called names, was made fun of, or teased in a hurtful way; other students left me out of things on purpose, excluded me from their group of friends, or completely ignored me; I was hit, kicked, pushed, shoved around, or locked indoors; other students told lies, spread false rumors about me, and tried to make others dislike me; I was made fun of because of my race or color; I was made fun of because of my religion; other students made sexual jokes, comments, or gestures that hurt my feelings; I have received a threatening or hurtful message from another student in an email, on a website, on a cell phone, from pager text messaging, in an internet chat room, or in instant messaging.”

This is unacceptable. Creating a caring environment at school is important for every student’s well-being. It affects how successfully youngsters can focus on learning as well as the other skills they need to develop to make the most of their potential and to be good citizens. Iowa schools and communities have been working hard on anti-bullying efforts. The summit was an opportunity to learn from some of them, as well as other state and national experts, about how to make schools a more civil, welcoming place for everyone.

Students and staff from both Van Buren and Harmony School Districts attended this event. One student noted one of the things that stood out to her was that “It takes a whole community to stop bullying, not just one program or one school, it takes everyone.” Another piece of information that was gained from the event was a quote that the Waukee high school had shared; “Always treat each other with kindness and respect”. One student felt this should be a motto here in Van Buren County. “If we remember that before we speak or act, it could help us from making mistakes that could result in bullying” said Abby Rider- Van Buren High School Junior. Students in both school districts are working on videos that will show some of the effects of bullying as well as things their school is doing to help prevent bullying from happening. Staff members feel it is important to revisit their bullying/and harassment policies with students and staff on a regular basis to ensure everyone is complying with the guidelines set forth by the state and the districts.

For more information on the bullying prevention summit you may visit their website at: A re-broadcast of the Summit was aired on IPTV on November 29th and will be available online after December 7th at:

Great American Smokeout Coloring Contest Winners

The Van Buren Community Schools Youth Leadership Council (YLC) sponsored a coloring contest for the 4th, 5th and 6th graders at Douds Elementary School during the month of November 2012. The winners of the contest are:

4th Grade
1st place – Anna Beebe
2nd Place – Natalia Damico
3rd Place – Jakob Watson
4th Place – Kayla Livesay

5th Grade
1st place – Grace Davidson
1st Place – Kamryn Banks
3rd Place – Chloe Davidson
4th Place – Phoenix Hunt

6th Grade
1st place – Hannah Hunt
2nd Place – Victoria Halverson
3rd Place – Clay Neeley
4th Place – Chase Ingwersen

All of the pictures entered in the contest are hanging in the halls of the Douds Elementary School for the students to see! Congratulations to one and all!

If you are interested in knowing more about the Great American Smokeout or the Van Buren County YLC Group please contact the Van Buren County SAFE Coalition at or 319-293-6412.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reasons to Keep Medical Marijuana Out of Iowa

During the 2012 election season two states passed Medical Marijuana Measures as ballot initiatives. This is not something the SAFE Coalition would like to see happen in Iowa. These are a few of the reasons why.

If the community cares about IQ levels and academic performance, it needs to oppose “medical” marijuana, marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization. Why? Marijuana use lowers IQ, because marijuana use negatively effects motivation, memory and learning! A recent study found that those who used cannabis heavily in their teens and continued through adulthood showed a permanent drop in IQ of eight points. A loss of eight IQ points could drop a person of average intelligence into the lowest third of the intelligence range. (M.H. Meier, Avshalom Caspi, et al. 2012 “Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

If the community cares about jobs, it needs to oppose “medical” marijuana, marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization. Why? More than 6,000 companies nationwide and scores of industries and professions require a pre-employment drug test. Since 6.6% of high school seniors nationally smoke marijuana every day, it renders them virtually unemployable because they will fail the pre-employment drug test.

If the community cares about highway safety in Iowa, it needs to oppose marijuana legalization. Why? Marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. According to Colorado Department of Transportation, drivers who tested positive for marijuana in fatal car crashes DOUBLED between 2006, when medical marijuana was legalized, and 2010.

If the community cares about crime and public safety, it needs to oppose “medical” marijuana, marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization. Why? Marijuana dispensaries lead to increased crime. Since most are cash only businesses, they tend to attract crime. Dispensaries often are tied to criminal organizations and deal with things like guns and other drugs. Dispensaries rarely have legitimate physicians available. We do not want pot shops in our neighborhoods!

If the community cares about the economy, it needs to oppose “medical” marijuana, marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization. Why? The total overall costs of substance abuse in the U.S., including productivity, health and crime-related costs exceed $600 billion annually. This includes approximately: $235 billion for alcohol, $193 billion for tobacco and $181 billion for illicit drugs. Federal and state alcohol taxes raise $14.5 billion, covering only about 6% of alcohol’s total cost to society. Federal and state tobacco taxes raise $25 billion, covering only about 13% of tobacco’s total cost to society. (Office of National Drug Control Policy - The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States, Executive Office of the President (Publication No. 207303) 2004)

If the community cares about youth drug use rates, it needs to oppose “medical” marijuana, marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization. Why? Studies show that states with medical marijuana have drug use rates twice the rate of other states. 74% of kids in treatment for addiction in Denver now report getting their pot from medical marijuana card holders.

If the community cares about the safety of medicines in the country, it needs to oppose “medical” marijuana. Why? There is a longstanding, effective national process in place to approve the efficacy and safety of medicines through the FDA and ballot initiatives circumvent the process. There is no scientific basis for using smoked marijuana as a medicine. Most “medical” marijuana users are not sick! According to Colorado’s State Department of Health, only 2% of users reported cancer, and less than 1% reported HIV/AIDS as their reason for cannabis use. The vast majority (94%) reported severe pain as their illness. The average “medical” marijuana user is a 32 year old white male with a history of alcohol, cocaine and meth use, but NO history of a life threatening illness.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Great American Smokeout Article

By: Sidney Frey, Tiffany Cochenour and Anna Snead
7th grade Youth Leadership Council (YLC) Members

Taylor Murguia, Meredith Miller,
Abby Rider, Jordan Billups,
Lydia Heald & Katelyn Davisson

Isabel Neeley, Olivia Denney,
McKenzie Perry, Jacinta Wenke,
Chase Murphy & Brian Hervey

Thursday, November 15th was the Great American Smokeout. The 7th grade YLC members planned a variety of activities. They wore black t-shirts backwards to show that students are turning their back on tobacco. We made locker signs, posters a radio ad and are also working on a TV ad that will air later in the year.

The Great American Smokeout is to encourage people to stop smoking. Here are some facts about tobacco that might help you quit:
• Spit tobacco users have higher risk of heart disease.
• Tobacco causes yellow, stained teeth, and bad breath.

Some of the reasons you should quit are:
• Smoking causes premature aging and is linked to wrinkles.
• 80% of teens would rather date a non-smoker.
• Smoke increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if you are a parent who smokes around a new baby.
• Smoking kills and estimated 25,000 people annually in the United States.
• Cigar smokers place themselves at risk for mouth and lung cancer, coronary hear disease, stroke, heart attack and emphysema.

If you do use tobacco we hope some of the information we have provided will help you decide to quit, if you need help quitting you may contact the American Cancer Society at or Quitline Iowa at 1800QUITNOW or online at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Great American Smokeout 2012

By: McKenzie Perry and Jacinta Wenke

November 15th 2012 is the Great American Smokeout. In Iowa roughly 45,700 high school students smoke each year, the Great American Smokeout is a national day devoted to reducing that number. YLC members are going to be assisting with this initiative by doing cigarette butt cleanups in Van Buren County. YLC members McKenzie Perry, Jacinta Wenke, Olivia Denney, Isabel Neeley, Chase Murphy, and Brian Hervey will be visiting the park in Birmingham and picking up cigarette butts in and around the playground. “We are doing this to show the community the amount of smoking that happens in their park, the dangers of second hand smoke for children and ask them to make this area tobacco-free”.

Did you know- Secondhand smoke kills an estimated 25,000 people annually in the United States. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in infants.

The Great American Smokeout (GASO), sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is an annual event taking place on the third Thursday of November that encourages smokers to use the date of the observance to make their plan to quit smoking for good or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.

During GASO, local, state and national organizations work to increase community awareness of the dangers of smoking as well as to emphasize the rights of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air in public places. GASO provides an opportunity for:

• Tobacco users to make a quit attempt, with permanent cessation adding years to their lives
• Friends, family, and health care professionals to encourage and support quit attempts
• Media organizations to run stories encouraging quitting
• Governmental and nongovernmental organizations to redouble their efforts to make our environment more conducive to quitting than continuing to use tobacco

Quitting smoking is the single best way smokers can protect their health, and quitting at any age has benefits. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability and premature death in the United States, yet more than 45 million Americans still smoke. For information on quitting tobacco use check out the American Cancer Society’s Website at

Use this day as your opportunity to quit tobacco use and support the YLC members in their efforts to make the parks in Van Buren County tobacco-free areas.

For more information about YLC activities or the Great American Smokeout you may contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or via email at

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why is a Code of Conduct Important? Harmony Revises Code of Conduct

Every school year, millions of student athletes across the country sign a code of conduct. This is done with the hope and expectation that chemical health violations and other behaviors of concern will be brought into check. However, for the most part student codes of conduct are poorly written which can lead to nullification either in the courts or simply through parental dissent. Not only is a poorly written code a concern but a well written code can have just as many problems if the people charged with enforcing the code do not apply the rules and regulations fairly and without prejudice. Data collected by the American Athletic Institute substantiated previous claims that athlete alcohol use actually surpasses general student population use between tenth and eleventh grade. Much of the problem was attributed to ineffective codes of conduct.

The Harmony community school district is currently in the process of reviewing and revising their extra-curricular code of conduct. A team of school staff, coaches, board members, parents, students and SAFE Coalition representatives have been meeting over the past three months. They have reviewed policies from other schools across the state including neighboring schools, Van Buren and Central Lee. After reviewing other policies the group determined the pieces they felt were a good fit for the Harmony district and developed a draft of the policy. This draft is being reviewed before sending it to the school board for review and approval. The committee felt the current policy was antiquated and did not cover all of the conduct concerns that schools are seeing today.

Harmony students have been a big part of this process and have provided valuable insight into what they feel is important to have in their school policy. They want students in their school to be held to a high standard, which will in-turn improve the sportsmanship, team moral and overall school spirit. Once this policy has been finalized information on the revisions will be provided to each parent and student of the district. There will also be additional information available in the local newspapers and on the school website.

If you are interested in more information on the process of the committee you may contact Heather Lightfoot at the Harmony High School 319-592-3192 or the Van Buren County SAFE Coalition office at 319-293-6412 or