At the DeWitt City Council meeting on Oct. 14, council member Frank Waters brought up concerns about bullying in schools and the police department’s involvement in preventing the issue.
“What are we doing about the bullying?” Waters asked chief of the DeWitt Police Department Bruce Ferguson.
Ferguson was updating the council on the terrorism threat when Waters brought up the concern. The council and Ferguson spoke about what led the DeWitt High School student to make such a threat. They connected this to social outcasts and bullying.
Ferguson discussed how the department is taking action to help prevent bullying through Project Alert.
“Project Alert is available for grades six through eight,” Ferguson said.
According to Ferguson, Project Alert is a curriculum that the police department provides to schools. It prepares students by addressing the tools they need going into high school. The curriculum is accredited, which means it can be used as credit for students.
“It prepares middle school students for high school,” Ferguson said.
He continued on about individuality in students.
“Let them be themselves,” Ferguson said.
Project Alert teaches students about peer pressure and how to handle those situations as well as other topics like substance abuse, Ferguson explained.
Along with Project Alert, the DeWitt Police Department provides T.E.A.M. for middle school students.
T.E.A.M, Teaching, Educating and Mentoring, is a school-based program constructed by the Michigan State Police to take over the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) program.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education was a program founded in 1983 to prevent drug use in middle school students. The program showed unsuccessful results, which led to the formulation of T.E.A.M.
2018 DeWitt high school graduate Jack Horan went through the D.A.R.E. program when he was in fifth grade.
“I think we learned it too young,” Horan said, “At that age you don’t even know what drugs are, just made you curious about it.”
The new program is more evolved because it covers topics that the old one did not, Ferguson explained.
“I have an officer go into the middle school every Thursday and Friday,” Ferguson said.
The DeWitt officers go into the middle school for the T.E.A.M. program.
T.E.A.M. trained police officers are the ones that teach the program. According to Michigan State Police, officers receive a 40-hour training program that demonstrates over 30 lesson plans that they can use for the students. Officers also get hands-on training from experts in student and juvenile psychology, classroom management, bullying,harassment, and school security issues.
The middle school curriculum includes eight lessons: Laws and Rules, Crime and the Community, Being Safe Means Recognizing Danger, Violence Does Not Belong in My School, Fire Prevents Begins with Me, Gun Safety We Can Live With, Safety in Cyberspace, and Take Action.
In addition to the two programs, Ferguson was able to find a mentor to help and speak to the LGBTQ community.
“We’re trying,” Ferguson said in regards to the issue of bullying.
The department doesn’t have a budget, but Ferguson explained how Project Alert, T.E.A.M., and the continuous active measurements taken by the Dewitt Police Department are currently being applied in hopes to help prevent bullying.