By CORTNEY ERNDT
Capital News Service
LANSING – The departments of Education and Civil Rights launched a joint initiative to implement effective anti-bullying high school pilot programs in three districts.
Detroit, Vandercook Lake and Allendale Public Schools were selected from nine applicants to participate, based on size and student population.
Allendale Superintendent Daniel Jonker said, “We’re very excited to be part of the pilot project. We’re looking forward to the collaboration so we can learn from our colleagues and the Department of Civil Rights.”
Jonker said, “We have a bullying-prevention committee. We have trained all our staff on bullying prevention. We just want to get better at what we do.”
The district wants to create a greater awareness of what bullying is among students, parents and staff, Jonker said.
“Any time something negative or mean is said, it could be two-sided,” Jonker said, “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bullying.”
“We are looking at each building to see what types of things we are currently doing and what we might do to improve,” Jonker said.
Participating schools will look for local partners in mental health, social services, government and law enforcement agencies to create a comprehensive plan that will reduce bullying behaviors.
Jacki Miller, Civil Rights public information officer, said, “They need allies from both within the K-12 arena and other partners.”
The districts will share information and data on programs. Miller said other districts will be included in the future.
Miller said, “Bullying creates a discriminatory, hostile environment because it denies educational opportunities and basic rights, such as the right to safety, the right to associate, participate in school activities and the right to learn.”
Schools in the program will work with a professional evaluator to ensure that they accurately measure the effectiveness of their efforts, Miller said.
Jason Fogel, an Allendale High School guidance counselor, said bullying hasn’t been a problem for the district.
However, Fogel said, “I don’t think it ever hurts to have an anti-bullying initiative for prevention.”
The Department of Education defines bullying as any gesture or written, verbal, graphic or physical act that is reasonably perceived as dehumanizing, intimidating, hostile, humiliating or threatening.
Miller said, “We ultimately want to reduce destructive peer interactions and positively impact the school climate, while enhancing learning for all K-12 students.”
The Department of Civil Rights is concerned bullies in schools will become perpetrators of harassment in workplaces.
Bullying contributes to assaults, truancy, substance abuse, domestic violence and hate crimes. The department is concerned bullies in schools will become perpetrators of harassment in workplaces, Miller said.
“The line between bullying and discrimination is very thin,” Miller said, “We are interested in preventing events that can lead to formal complaints of discrimination.”
The programs will formally begin in the fall.
By CORTNEY ERNDT