Steve Overacker, Trustee
On December 6, 2011, Governor Snyder signed anti-bullying legislation into law to help protect students from intimidation and harassment. Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who committed suicide shortly after a hazing incident, inspired “Matt’s Safe School Law.” At the time of its passage, Michigan was one of only three states without anti-bullying laws. The law created a three-step process that all schools in Michigan must now comply with:
• Districts must hold at least one public meeting about potential anti-bullying policy.
• Districts will then approve and adopt a policy tailored to their students.
• That plan will then be submitted to the Michigan Department of Education.
The law defines bullying as abuse that interferes with the victim’s ability to take part in educational opportunities and other benefits and programs offered by the school. It includes actions that place victims in reasonable fear of physical harm or emotional distress. The policy applies on school premises, school buses, and off-site school activities.
I am happy to report that a review of the current practices here in Spring Lake shows that many of these new requirements are already in place. The on-going efforts by our staff have been focused on not only teaching about the harmful effects that bullying has on others but to also teach the skills needed to keep our kids from being a victim. Our schools place a daily emphasis in showing “respect,” have provided school wide assemblies, classroom discussion/activities are facilitated by our Guidance Counselors, students receive instruction on how to report harassment, and several staff have been trained in conflict resolution. Some of your schools have implemented school wide positive behavior support plans that encourage students to engage in positive behaviors. At the high school, students have been made aware of the definition of bullying as well as the existing process to report any bullying that they have experienced or observed. Our staffs have already established a “safety” link/tab on the district web page that allows students to privately report bullying by sending a text message to the number listed. This information is then electronically delivered to the high school assistant principal.
We often hear complaints about “another mandate from Lansing,” however when it comes to providing students with a “safe school environment,” it would appear that Lansing is finally catching up to what we have had in place for a long time.
Bullying and Other Aggressive Behavior Toward Students Policy - Draft
The Board Policy Committee met prior to the April 16, 2012 Board Meeting to discuss the Bullying Policy, Public Act 241 of 2011, known as "Matt's Safe School Law." This legislation calls for the Board of each school district to adopt and implement a policy prohibiting bullying at school, not later than June 6, 2012. Eight key points are included to protect all students from bullying. The proposed Bullying Policy PDF is available below. It will be an action item at the May Board Meeting.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact a Board Member or the Superintendent.