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Bullies / Bullied

 Anti-Bullying Procedure

Under current state law, by July 6, 2012,  all schools must have an anti-bullying procedure in place.  There have been at least two Department of Education memorandums reminding schools of this.  Although Michigan has such a law, each district is allowed to write its own policy, so long as it addresses the required components of the state law. The Michigan School Board has provided districts with an optional template to use for their district and family/student handbooks.

“Sample” Anti-Bullying Policy

The template defines bullying and harassment as follows:

“Bullying” is conduct that meets all of the following criteria:

  • is reasonably perceived as being dehumanizing, intimidating, hostile, humiliating, threatening, or otherwise likely to evoke fear of physical harm or emotional distress;
  • is directed at one or more pupils;
  • is conveyed through physical, verbal, technological or emotional means;
  • substantially interferes with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of one or more pupils;
  • adversely affects the ability of a pupil to participate in or benefit from the school district’s or public school’s educational programs or activities by placing the pupil in reasonable fear of physical harm or by causing emotional distress; and,
  • is based on a pupil’s actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic (see above), or is based on an association with another person who has or is perceived to have any of these characteristics. “Harassment” is conduct that meets all of the following criteria:
  • is reasonably perceived as being dehumanizing, intimidating, hostile, humiliating, threatening, or otherwise likely to evoke fear of physical harm or emotional distress;
  • is directed at one or more pupils;
  • is conveyed through physical, verbal, technological or emotional means;
  • substantially interferes with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of one or more pupils;
  • adversely affects the ability of a pupil to participate in or benefit from the school district’s or public school’s educational programs or activities because the conduct, as reasonably perceived by the pupil, is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive as to have this effect; and,
  • is based on a pupil’s actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic (see above), or is based on an association with another person who has or is perceived to have any of these characteristics. The scope of this policy includes the prohibition of every form of bullying, harassment, and cyberbullying/harassment, whether in the classroom, on school premises, immediately adjacent to school premises, when a student is traveling to or from school (portal to portal), or at a school-sponsored event, whether or not held on school premises. Bullying or harassment, including cyberbullying/ harassment, that is not initiated at a location defined above is covered by this policy if the incident results in a potentially material or substantial disruption of the school learning environment for one or more students and/or the orderly day-today operations of any school or school program.

At the very least, school district policies must be publicly posted and define bullying behavior, harassment behavior, and the protocols for reporting it. Schools are responsible for addressing all complaints. Given that bullying behavior is a repeated behavior or one most likely to be repeated, not all mean behaviors will be classified as bullying. It is still important, however, to address such meanness and the impact it can have on a student’s wellbeing.

The first step is to never minimize the concern you have for a student. No student should ever have to mitigate their own bullying situation. It is the school’s responsibility to investigate the matter in a timely, efficient, and thorough manner. It is our job to report the behavior and schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the results and steps to ensure the student’s safety and wellbeing.

For situations that cause significant concern for you and/or the student, include the counselor and an administrator in your initial contact. Doing so will alert the school to proceed with a bullying investigation.

In your follow-up contact, ask for explicit actions the school intends to implement. Make sure to know each staff member’s role and responsibility, which may include school social workers, counselors, administrators, and other teachers. Maintain contact with the parties in the days to come, as bullying victims may not always report ongoing problems, even to trusted adults.

 

Alternatives:

  • 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.

Resources

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

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