Lansing school district tackles bullying

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Director of Student Services Susan Land (pictured right) gives the the PACE bullying report at the Oct 16 Lansing School Board meeting. Photo by Chloe Huard.

By Chloe Huard
The Lansing Star

LANSING — The Lansing school district is taking further steps this school year to combat bullying.

The Lansing School Board discussed bullying within the school district at its Oct. 16 meeting, as well as the new programs that will be put into place to prevent it.

“It is a national issue that has garnered a lot of attention, and rightfully so,” Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul said.

The bullying report was given by Director of Student Services Susan Land. It highlighted the district’s definition of bullying, the steps that are taken by schools to resolve a bullying situation and the overall bullying trends within schools.

“People don’t necessarily see bullying in the same way, which is one of the problems with bullying,” Land said. “What one person views as a bullying incident someone else may not see it the same way. That does cause some problems across our district, across the state and across the nation.”

Bullying incidents within the Lansing school district seem to follow consistent trends. Reported incidents of bullying are more likely to occur at the beginning of the school year in the months of October, November and December. In addition, students who have been accused of bullying are usually punished with a suspension.

A total of 133 bullying incidents were reported for the 2013-2014 school year. Data for the current school year is currently being gathered by PACE, Pupil Accounting and Central Enrollment, the department responsible for reporting bullying to both the school district and the federal government.

The current school year has seen an increased use of restorative practices, a technique that seeks to fix the relationship between a bully and their victim rather than simply suspend the bully.

“Restorative practices can be effective with bullying. The key thing there is you have to get the bully to acknowledge their role in the incident and to accept responsibility for their behavior,” Land said. “You have to use restorative practices with bullying very carefully or you run the risk of re-victimizing your victim.”

In an effort to tackle bullying this year, the Lansing school district will not only focus on disciplining bullies, but on educating teachers and staff about bullying in hopes that it can be prevented.

This effort has even extended as far as the mayor’s office. Mayor Virg Bernero has collaborated with the Lansing school district on a nationwide project known as the Mayors Campaign to End Bullying.

The campaign comes with several resources for schools and the mayor. In addition to a customized toolkit with tips for teachers on how to prevent bullying, the movie “BULLY” is scheduled to be shown to help facilitate a community discussion.This movie will be screened at 12:30 pm on Friday, October 24 in the Lansing board room.

“It is our hope that they will be working to raise awareness of bullying within our schools and to work with staff development to help train people to better recognize bullying and to better intervene when that occurs,” Land said.

According to Superintendent Caamal Canul’s Monday Morning Memo from Oct. 20, the ultimate goal of this collaboration will be to develop a plan that will create an anti-bullying culture within Lansing’s schools.

As the Lansing school district continues to implement new plans to counter bullying, parents of bullying victims have already begun to see a change. Nicole Armbruster, who sits on the board as a trustee, said her son has experienced bullying in school before.

“I am seeing positive changes,” said the mother of three. “One of my sons was struggling with bullying last year and this year he says it’s a million times better and he’s really enjoying his year. And in sixth grade that’s tough. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

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