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Farmington Schools' New Anti-Bullying Policy Gets a Public Hearing

Officials say the new policy codifies elements of the district's long-standing student code of conduct.

officials held a public hearing on a new anti-bullying policy required under a 2011 state law named after a young man who committed suicide after being bullied at school.

"Matt's Safe School Law", named after Matt Epling, requires districts to include specific elements in the policy that address the protection of all students regardless of the reason for the bullying and procedures for reporting bullying, notifying both the victim and alleged perpetrator and their parents or guardians, prompt investigation and documentation of the incident and cyberbullying. 

Dr. Michele Harmala, assistant superintendent of student support services and organizational leadership, provided board members with a copy of the policy that identified all the areas required by law. She said the district has for years addressed bullying in its student code of conduct. 

"The difference is how we codify it," Harmala said. "We must help our students understand that bullying another student now violates Michigan law ... It is no small matter." 

Harmala cited surveys that showed 50 to 75 percent of students, depending on grade level, report never having any verbal or physical conflicts. A small percentage of students said they would not report bullying behavior to an adult, and the district wants to ensure all students are reporting it, she said. 

The survey also showed about twice as many secondary as elementary students said they would not do anything when they see acts of bullying, Harmala said. Administrators are working on reporting strategies within individual schools, she added.

Staff training about Matt's Law and recognizing bullying behaviors has already been done at , Harmala said, and will spread to other schools. She noted teachers are apprehensive about the law's requirements. 

"When you get legislation like this, it raises people's anxiety," she said. Teachers are being told, "you can recognize this, you've always recognized this," Harmala added. 

There was no resident testimony presented during the public hearing. 

In other business

Approval of a proposed educational trust agreement, reviewed during Tuesday's meeting, is expected on the board's April 24 agenda. The trust will be created through the , but will be autonomous and controlled by a separate board of directors, attorney Amanda Van Dusen of Miller Canfield explained. The funds will be designated solely for Farmington Public Schools programs and services. 

Board members tabled a proposed purchase agreement for approximately 9566 square feet of the former Fairview Early Education Center property on Oakcrest Dr., for $10,000, to neighboring property owners Hannan and Lisa Lis. Officials negotiated a sale with the Lis', whose basketball court encroaches on the district's property. Supt. Sue Zurvalec requested putting the sale on hold in order to address board member questions regarding the property's value, and to review a competing bid submitted around 3 p.m. Tuesday by Community First LLC, a company tied to Irving Ginsberg, a former school board candidate.

Jim Corcoran April 11, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Forget tougher punishments and hiring more police for schools. The solution to crime and violence is in your lunchroom. http://www.alternet.org/environment/25122/?comments=view&cID=35161&pID=34156 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE

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