By RJ Wolcott
Meridian Times staff writer
In December, Gov. Rick Snyder signed Matt’s Safe School Law, a piece of legislation designed to protect students from harassment in the classroom. Since then, schools across the state have worked to adapt current policies or write new ones to fit new state requirements.
According to the new law, policies must be put into place that outline how a school would deal with bullying behavior, retaliation and similar situations. Schools are also required to document each case of harassment and are expected to inform a parent or guardian if a student is being bullied.
Haslett Superintendent Mike Duda said that his school district has had a policy in place since 2003. He said that the policy was revised in 2006 and that his district has had no measurable increase in bullying behavior since the policy’s implementation. Duda also went into detail regarding the Haslett cyber bullying policy. “All students and staff are expected to sign a technology agreement that includes language that prohibits cyber-bullying,” Duda said.
Within individual schools, Haslett has also taken steps to ensure student safety. Haslett Middle School adapted a cyber-bullying policy from the Seattle Public School district three years ago. The policy talks about what can be done within schools to protect students as well as encourages parents to be the watchdogs outside the school.
Haslett Middle School Principal Andy Pridgeon said this policy as well as other actions have resulted in a decrease in bullying. Pridgeon also said that since the school started teaching students about bullying in the classroom he has seen a net increase in the number of incidents reported by students.
Pridgeon went into detail about what is happening to bullying with the increase in technological sophistication. “The face of bullying has really changed. It’s not that stereotypical in the locker room physical type of intimidation; it’s really involved. And with the use of technology via cellphones or Facebook or any other social media type things, kids are available 24 hours a day. And in reaction to that we really thought that we need to get out in front of this trend potentially,” he said.
Matt’s Safe School Law proponents hope that the law will demand more sophisticated steps to combat bullying. And while many schools already have policies, both parents and members of the community are demanding that kids feel safe in and out of the classroom.