Bullies / Bullied
Under current state law, by July 6, 2012, all schools were supposed to have an anti-bullying procedure in place. There have been at least two Department of Education memorandums reminding schools of this. There is even a “sample” anti-bullying policy on the Department of Education website available for school districts to fill out and adopt.
We still have to deal with bullying.
If a student is being bullied at school there is a chain of command that traditionally should be followed. Throughout the process, be sure to keep the student in mind.
The first step is to contact the teacher. Hopefully, the teacher can handle the situation and everything can be taken care of. Often the student is nervous about talking to the teacher. An advocate can step in and work with the teacher, the family member and the student. The student needs to know they are not alone. If this does not work, we need to move to the second step.
Step two is involving the school counselor. Bringing the counselor in allows them to work as an advocate for the student. This gives someone other than the teacher an active anti-bullying role on the school campus. Hopefully they can watch a little better than the teacher and help diffuse situations when the teacher is unable to. If the school counselor is unable to handle the situation, the next step is step three.
Step three is to involve the principal. Up to this point it is unlikely that things have escalated to the point that there is punishment of the protagonist. The principal begins to look at punishment as a way of handling things in the hopes of stopping the behavior. Unfortunately, if things have gotten here, we’re looking at disciplinary action against a student. Usually the type of disciplinary action at this level is not mere detention. If this does not stop the bullying, or if things continue to escalate, we have to move to step four.
Step four is to bring the issue to the attention of the school superintendent. This means that things are way out of hand and unable to be dealt with within the school itself. At this point a student is looking at expulsion.
The last step would be to speak to your district’s elected board. You could first speak to the board chair one-on-one or take your concerns to the entire board by speaking during public comments. We recommend writing down your concerns and sharing written documentation of your concerns and what remedies you’d like to see.
- Have the child identify a “trusted” adult that would act as the go-to person and serve as a mentor and safety person for the bullied child. This makes it unnecessary to use “proper” channels and “tattling” which gives the bully more power.
- Adapt the “circle of friends” or the “Pals” models originally designed for special education inclusion kids as they try to find support and belonging in the general education setting.
- Depending on the cooperation and sensitivity of the school adults involved and the willingness of parents and the nature of the bullying, creatively designing ways to shift the power to the bullied child. For example, the bullied child might get to pick 2 or 3 classmates to leave class and do something special like go to play board games with the social worker and have pizza for lunch with the counselor or the hand-picked trusted adult (see above) or play basketball with the cool gym teacher or basketball coach.
Remember the student may require more assistance than these interventions.
If the student feels an immediate threat of harm or if there is a crime being committed, this is not the time to get involved. This is when you call-in professionals at 911.
If the student is feeling helpless, hopeless, despondent, or thinking of suicide, it is time to get professional help. Refer them to 1-800-273-8255. This is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This toll free number goes to the nearest crisis center which provides 24-hour crisis counseling and mental health referrals. Do not hesitate to give this number out!
If the caller says that the student is acting differently than normal, such as always seeming sad or anxious, struggling to complete tasks, or not being able to care for themselves. The student needs help and soon. We can help them find a local counselor or other mental health services.
Michigan Law—MCL § 380.1310b: Policy prohibiting bullying; adoption and implementation by board of school district or intermediate school district or board of directors of public school academy; public hearing; submission of policy to department; report; contents of policy; reporting act of bullying; definitions; section to be known as “Matt’s Safe School Law.”
Model Anti-Bullying Policy: Can be found online at the Michigan.gov website.
The Corner Health Center: Medical Care for teens to 21 year olds 734-484-3600
Washtenaw County Community Support & Treatment Services, Youth and Family Services: 24 hour support service. 734-544-3050
SafeHouse Center: Domestic violence center in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Area. Only assists with intimate partner violence. 734-995-5444
National Domestic Violence Hotline: Nationwide help available—helps find local services 1-800-799-7233
Affirmations: An organization that helps LGBTQ students who are being bullied
How to Tease Proof Your Kids: A good article on helping your children deal with teasing in school
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: A peer-to-peer bully prevention program
Sprigeo: An online, anonymous bullying reporting system
OK-2-SAY Student Safety Initiative: A school violence hotline where students, parents, and concerned citizens will be able to confidentially report tips on dangerous behaviors that threaten the safety of our schools, students, and schoolpersonnel. Program is targeted to start in September 2013.
StopBullying.gov –A great resource about bullying created by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aimee Alaniz, School Safety Consultant, Coordinated School Health and Safety Programs. Michigan Department of Education, AlanizA1@michigan.gov, (517) 373-8862