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Moms Talk: Should Michigan Crack Down on School Bullies?

The state Senate is pushing for a safe-school law that would require anti-bullying policies.

Moms Talk is a new feature on Dexter Patch that is part of a new initiative on our Patch sites to reach out to moms and families.

Dexter Patch invites you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in Dexter.

Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of experts and smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions.

This week we're addressing the issue of bullying in schools. According to an article in the weekly Observer & Eccentric newspaper, state Sen. Glenn Anderson (D-Westland) is pushing forward with “Matt's Safe School Law.” The legislation was given its name in honor of Matt Epling, 14, an East Lansing student who committed suicide after being subjected to constant tormenting by older students while in middle school. 

What are your thoughts on school bullying? If passed, the law would require school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

Shelly Watkins February 09, 2011 at 06:30 PM
I think that any steps to bring bullying to the forefront of parents' minds is a good thing. Like most issues, parents need to be involved in their kids' days. Talking to them may bring out hints that they may be bullied or the bullier at school.
Daniel Lai February 09, 2011 at 06:52 PM
When I was in school, there were bullies, but it didn't seem like kids were taking things so personally like they are today. This whole business of bullies causing kids to become withdrawn and depressed seems like it is getting worse.
Shelly Watkins February 09, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Right Daniel. Back in the day we called them mean kids and either told the teacher, stayed away from them or punched them (my first day of kindergarten I punched a boy and had to stand against the wall at recess in my new dress). Now that it has a label and is in the news more, I think we should do everything we can to address and try to stop it.
Shelly Watkins February 09, 2011 at 07:18 PM
The boy was bullying me, I wasn't the bully...for the record.
Caroline Altomare February 09, 2011 at 08:51 PM
I think that the bullying of today is much more powerful because kids frequently cannot see the perpetrators. Cyberbullying is vicious and anonymous and thus so much more hurtful. I truly think that the teachers, schools and parents, each alone, will not make a dent in the problem. When the other kids feel empowered and *they* feel free to step in and intercede...that is the day that bullying will stop. All the tired solutions of "ignore the bully, tell a teacher" etc do not work!
H.M.W. February 10, 2011 at 01:57 AM
I was bullied from about 3rd-8th/9th grade, mostly verbally and emotionally. I had sand thrown at my face, was made fun of because of my hair, my clothing, who my friends were, the people that I stuck up for because THEY were being bullied, had candy wrappers and balls of chewed gum thrown into my hair during choir because the people behind me thought it was funny, and was told that removing the gum in the manner that I did (very carefully, at school), it made me look even uglier than before. There were points I wanted to kill myself because I was sick of all the abuse. Those years I was bullied, my mom kept tabs on what was happening, and talked with teachers/principals when she new that I was afraid to say anything. It breaks my heart to see young individuals, both straight and gay, killing themselves because they could no longer deal with the bullying. I know parents talk to school principals and administrations, and perhaps they should be louder or do more, but the school administrations,etc. need to stop brushing this kind of stuff under the rug or saying "Kids will be kids." It's sad that we'd even need a law, but maybe it would make people realize the gravity of the situation and actually do something to stop it. How many individuals need to die before someone says enough is enough?
Caroline Altomare February 10, 2011 at 02:21 AM
HMW, Your story breaks my heart. I had a child that was bullied frequently in school. What made it so hard was that the bullying was so cleverly hidden by the kids, including the one being bullied (self preservation) that admin and teachers never saw it. Now, that does NOT give a pass the school; we had so many conferences where staff basically either shrugged their shoulders, gave us the tired and useless coping strategies I mention above, or, said that they never saw it. I have talked with many teachers that really, really care and want to help and find the answer. I don't know what that answer is...but I soooo totally agree with you that it is a huge and ugly problem and the despair that all of you feel is, well, I have no words. I find it VERY interesting that this topic has had *much* less activity than the Facebook question last week....what does that say for all of us?
H.M.W. February 10, 2011 at 04:31 AM
Unfortunately, a lot of the torture happens in the form of emotional/verbal abuse, which provides no physical evidence. And if teachers don't see the teasing, there's a limited amount of stuff they can do about abuse they have no physical evidence for. My neighbor was badly bullied as well, physically, and something only was done about it when his sister noticed the bruises all over his torso when he was changing in his room. Since it was a number of years ago, I can't remember what the school did about it, but his mom ended up pulling him out of 5th grade and home-schooled him for the remainder of his grade-school career. I agree with what you said about cyber-bullying becoming quite a powerful component of bullying. Perhaps people are too worried about getting in trouble or falsely accusing/getting someone else in trouble. Maybe this is part of why a lot goes undone about cyber-bullying until someone winds up killing themselves or killing others.
Caroline Altomare February 10, 2011 at 01:27 PM
The anonymity of the internet can be a terrible thing. It provides many with a platform to express poisonous things without ever needing to provide a name/face. We see it in the blogging and comment sections on news websites all the time (not this one Daniel..). So cyber bullying is another extension of that "power". You almost can't accuse a cyber bully because there can be no trail to follow. "A" posts something horrible, all the school sees it, then "A" deletes the post. The damage is done, but there is no trail and "A" denies it if asked. I think that is the main point...anonymity..power without consequence...a heady mixture for a teen. And then there are the parents that, while rare, get somehow involved with it too as in the case of Megan Meier. Perhaps since we parents didn't have to deal with it when we were young, we don't *really* see the depth of the pain and power. Maybe it would help if we imagined that our boss called us in and fired us without notice and had the police there due to "embezzling". And everyone (except us) knew all about it...and when we go around to find out what happened, all we could find was rumor, and, all our coworker pals now shunned us. To go from one day happy employee to jobless, friendless and needing an attorney would be devastating. OK, so I know there are holes in my analogy that are a mile wide, but it is the principle that I am trying to express here.
Daniel Lai February 10, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Everyone here made some pretty profound statements on this topic. Thanks for chiming in this week. Do you have ideas for a topic for next week?
Dexter Mom November 12, 2012 at 03:39 PM
A current U of M doctoral student at U of M in his country (Chile) did a study about cyber bullying, and he showed that the children who were bullied and being bullied online outside of school were pretty much all the same children - i.e., that they know each other from school. In other words, kids don't get online and find random people to bully - they pick people from school. He said the correlation between victims who know their bullies from school was 90% (!), which shows that even if this bullying is being done "outside of school," the school is where it initiates, and thus the school has a responsibility to get involved.
Dexter Mom November 12, 2012 at 03:45 PM
There is a group of kids in Dexter who are all victims and they are reaching out for some help since the teachers and administrators aren't willing/able to stop it. The man mentioned above from U of M in the Psychology Dept. has given us this advice when being told a little about what is happening in Dexter. He said that what typically happens in these situations of mass school bullying is one of two things - either the students all begin to commit suicide (as they've been doing/attempting to do in recent years), or there is mass school violence...we're talking a school shooting. This happens because the kids a) aren't getting the emotional support they need (which should be the next step in this process - not just support for parents, but therapy and group support for children), b) they start to internalize this bullying and believe it's their fault, that they asked for it, and c) they begin to hate everyone and everything and want them all dead. This is really serious...judging by the fact that people around this area know of Dexter's reputation for bullying, and by the fact that children are starting to flee the school district, I'd say unless something changes we're looking at a really, really, really serious situation, one in which people could be killed. He stressed that these children need emotional support, i.e. a group for victimized children in the area. I don't know if anything like that exists here...?

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