Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill Tuesday that gives school districts six months to develop "clear anti-bullying policies" that are required to be in place by the beginning of the next school year.
“This legislation sends a clear message that bullying is wrong in all its forms and will not be tolerated,” Snyder said in a news release. “No child should feel intimidated or afraid to come to school.”
Districts have to hold a public hearing on the policy. Those districts that already have a policy that complies with the law — such as the Hartland School District in Livingston County — must submit a copy to the Michigan Department of Education within 60 days since the law took immediate effect with Snyder's signature.
A previous Senate version originally attracted national attention because critics said it provided an exception for bullies who have "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction." But a house version that didn't have that language won out. It also didn't clearly protect students who could be bullied because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Under the new law, the policies must at least include:
- "A statement prohibiting bullying of a pupil.
- A statement prohibiting retaliation or false accusation against a target of bullying, a witness, or another person with reliable information about an act of bullying.
- A provision indicating that all pupils are protected under the policy and that bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus.
- The identification by job title of school officials responsible for ensuring that the policy is implemented.
- A statement describing how the policy is to be publicized.
- A procedure for providing notification to the parent or legal guardian of a victim of bullying and the parent or legal guardian of a perpetrator of the bullying.
- A procedure for reporting an act of bullying.
- A procedure for prompt investigation of a report of violation of the policy or a related complaint, identifying either the principal or the principal’s designee as the person responsible for the investigation.
- A procedure for each public school to document any prohibited incident that is reported and a procedure to report all verified incidents of bullying and the resulting consequences, including discipline and referrals, to the board of the school district or intermediate school district or board of directors of the public school academy on an annual basis."
In addition, the new law states that the legislature encourages the following:
- "Provisions to form bullying prevention task forces, programs, teen courts, and other initiatives involving school staff, pupils, school clubs or other student groups, administrators, volunteers, parents, law enforcement, community members, and other stakeholders.
- A requirement for annual training for administrators, school employees, and volunteers who have significant contact with pupils on preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting incidents of bullying.
- A requirement for educational programs for pupils and parents on preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting incidents of bullying and cyberbullying."