Schools must report bullying: it’s now the law

Schools must report bullying, it’s Michigan law and common-sense leadership

Laws are not optional. If they were, they’d be called guidelines.

Yet a Lansing State Journal investigation showed the majority of mid-Michigan school districts are not following Matt’s Law, which requires all Michigan school districts to investigate reports of bullying and inform school boards of the scope of these incidents.

Only two of the 18 school districts the LSJ reviewed were fully compliant with the 8-year-old law, named for Matt Epling, an East Lansing teenager who died by suicide in 2002. His father, Kevin, fought for years to get the Legislature to implement an anti-bullying law.

But a law does little good if it isn’t enforced and educators disregard various portions of it.

The report showed that many of the schools that had some sort of reporting mechanism failed to follow up with it by including any action steps. Reports provided to the school board are often verbal and informal, failing to capture the scope of incidents.

Read the story: Is your school following Michigan’s anti-bullying law? Probably not.

With the well being of young people at stake, every school district should be fully on board with the law.

Tracking reports of bullying and the actions taken to address those reports will help school board members, parents and the community understand the extent of issue in their districts.

Those reports also allow educators to spot trends and create a mechanism to address potential problems before they exist. What gets measured gets fixed.

The spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education said it has no role in ensuring compliance with the bullying law.

Once a district files a policy with the state, the agency says individual districts are responsible for monitoring themselves. Clearly, that isn’t working.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who sponsored an early version of Matt’s Law during her time as state senator, said the original draft “had more teeth,” but what it ended up as was only a “modest step forward” that didn’t do enough.

Whether educators agree with the law doesn’t matter. Following it, and leveraging it to improve student safety and community education, is common-sense leadership.

— Lansing State Journal. May 26