Bullying Bill May Duplicate School Efforts

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

The anti-bullying bill touted Tuesday by Gov. Jennifer Granholm would duplicate efforts already undertaken in local schools, according to a principal at a mid-Michigan middle school. But parents there say more rules from the state could mean less bullying.

"I haven't heard (my children) talk about it too much. Not on a real serious basis," Grand Ledge parent Nancy Novakoski said.

Novakoski says her kids don't come with many stories about hallway bullies. Even her middle schooler says it's not too big a problem.

Perhaps it's because of all the time Beagle Middle School spends talking about bullying.

"Before we get to spring break, we've been in the classroom three times, talking about the issue of bullying-harrassment," Beagle Principal Charlie Phillips said.

Phillips says he's already doing much of what the anti-bullying legislation proposes. His middle school students make a pledge not to bully.

"We'll trace their hand in people. We have their parents trace their hands. And we make the pledge: Our students will not use my hands or my words to hurt myself or others," Phillips said.

He says the pledge works -- and when it doesn't?

"They can come to us. It's not squealing. It's taking care of business. We have a harrassment form," the principal said.

And Phillips says -- there are punishments for the harrassers.

"If we have talked to a student before ... it's going to result in a suspension," he said.

Some parents say solidifying the policies in state law can only help.

"Educating the educators" makes sense, Novakoski said.

But principals like Phillips are cautious.

"The legislation ... I'm glad to see it come to the forefront. I don't know if legislature will tie our hands with something. I'd like to see things left with local school districts," he said.

Despite his tepid endorsement, Phillips says he knows bullying can become deadly serious.

"We've had the Columbines, the Jonesboros. It is serious and it is scary."

And parents like Novakoski agree.

"If the individual student's going through it, it's a big deal for that student," she said.

Phillips referenced the Columbine and Jonesboro school shootings. After those shootings, Michigan State Police opened a 24-hour school violence hotline.

That hotline is in place to this day. An operator told News 10 Tuesday he gets a legitimate report of potential school violence once every couple of weeks.

-- in Grand Ledge, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.


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