Under House Bill 4746 introduced by state Rep. Samuel Thomas, D-Detroit, Michigan would become the latest state to require its school districts to have a specific policy and discipline code to address bullying.
“It was personal for me to get involved,” said Thomas, recalling he once was the target of bullies. “It’s important to set a clear and consistent tone to parents and the community that bullying will not be tolerated.’
Thomas said recent studies have shown that 60 percent of young people think bullying is a problem in school, and 30 percent say they are afraid to go to school because of bullies. Under the bill, a school would have to spell out the ways it would respond to bullying complaints.
School districts could either choose their own policy or adopt the model policy developed by the state Department of Education. If a district implements its own policy, the code would have to be based on suggestions by parents, teachers, and administrators.
Each district would have submit its policy to the state superintendent by Sept. 1, 2002. The bill is awaiting a hearing by the House Education Committee.
Charlotte district superintendent Max Baxter, who remembers being called “fatso” by bullies when he was growing up, understands the sentiment behind Thomas’s bill. But he says it’s impossible to end school bullying with a law.
“It’s like trying to legislate for every possible contingency,” Baxter said. He’d rather let schools deal with such situations on a case-by-case basis.
Last month, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed into law a bill that requires school districts to adopt bullying prevention policies for all schools and provide details in annual reports to the state Education Department. The law is similar to Thomas’s proposal.
Teachers and administrators can figure out how to stop bullying if they know the kids who are being bullied, said Brian Whiston, a lobbyist for the Oakland Schools. But they have to have information to act.
“It’s like stopping the drug trade, you can’t do it just by going after the drug dealers,” Whiston said.