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Dearborn Schools Record 919 Bullying Incidents in 2011-12

In the first year of its district-wide anti-bullying effort, preliminary surveys indicate a reduction in incidents.

When Dearborn Public Schools' joint community-schools anti-bullying campaign was , no one was really sure how widespread bullying was in the district's 32 schools.

But now, with the close of the program's first year, officials have a much clearer idea.

From September 2011 to June 2012, 919 incidents of bullying were logged by staff members. Four-hundred thirty-two incidents were logged at the elementary level, 395 were noted at the middle school level, and 92 were tracked at the high schools.

Though it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of the anti-bullying campaign because the district did not track incidents prior to 2011, officials believe the program is making a dent in the level of bad behavior at the schools.

The program includes not only tracking of bullying incidents, but . It's a joint effort supported by the City of Dearborn and the schools–an aspect highlighted by officials.

The program's need was particularly illustrated when one of the most widespread bullying incidents in Dearborn's recent history took place in February.

The –which involved the circulation of letters that commented on the personal lives and alleged sexual practices of several female students–resulted in the suspension of four male students at , followed by two at . The incident caused an uproar in the community, and district spokesman David Mustonen said it underscored the need for community involvement in stopping bullying.

“It shows that we needed to have something that was community-based instead of something that was just about schools,” he said.

In-Depth Program

Under the bullying program guidelines, each school hosts three age-appropriate anti-bullying events per year.

The district also held parent meetings, and trained each of its 2,200 employees about how to recognize bullying, and how to document the incident.

“We started using a special program to track incidents last year,” said Gail Shenkmann, the assistant superintendent for secondary education. “It helped us learn more about what was happening at the schools.”

The results showed that the program appears to have had an impact.

A survey of students taken at the beginning of the school year indicated that 48 percent of elementary school students, 43 percent of middle school students and 40 percent of high school students indicated they have been bullied. But a survey at the end of the year indicated that 26 percent of middle school students and 17 percent of high school students said they were bullied.

About 77 percent of reports filed indicated that bullying was observed and reported by students, according to data provided by the district. Administrators had initially thought that it would be staff members that would be reporting incidents.

Most of the student-observed incidents were at the high schools.

Mustonen said it’s unclear what the data will show next year.

“It could be that the numbers will go down," he said, "but they could also go up because of increased reporting."

Ahead of the Curve

The anti-bullying campaign at DPS was implemented before , mainly because the district wanted to address the issue, but also because the legislation was languishing in Lansing.

Jody Manning, the parent training and information center coordinator for National Bullying Prevention Center in Bloomington, Minn., said school districts are coming on board with substantial in-depth anti-bullying programs.

“I think what has happened is that school districts have realized that ... teaching young people that they shouldn’t support bullying is not a one-time shot," she said. “Schools recognize that programs need to be ongoing, year-long efforts that are more inclusive.

“It takes a long time to change the climate at school.”

Michigan legislation approved in December 2011 dictates that every school district must have a bullying program and language in place.

For Dearborn Public Schools, it's now just a matter of seeing where the numbers go.

“This is the first year of the campaign," said Mustonen, "and we can’t make any predictions on what the number will be next year."

Lee Jacobsen July 05, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Bullies like to pick on the weak. Perhaps we should add Hapkido and other self defense classes for gym. The weak can then muscle up, build up self esteem, and the bullies will become less anxious to cause 'issues' since their opponents may cause them some damage. Next year the results of the school changes will have something for comparison. Right now, it is only guesswork..
Kevin Epling July 05, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Kudos to DPS for taking the first step to fully understand what is happening within the school. The first step of any program needs to be some form of survey. This has always been the fail point for many schools because they really don't want to know what's going on. Yes the numbers can go up because of more reporting and that should be seen as a good thing. When students report they are not only standing up for themselves but for everyone else too. As they are listened too and the school adjusts to counter bullying attitudes, and it is no longer "normalized", the bullies loose power. The self esteem of the student body grows and we bring the bullies into the fold as well. It has to be about a cultural shift for everyone that this behavior is not tolerated and that there are serious repercussions. I have been pushing this concept since 2003 and now it is being implemented far and wide. The law is now a gentle push to schools to get on board with something they were asked to do on their own back in 2001. Peace. Kevin, Matt's Dad. Proponent "Matt's Safe School Law" 2011
City of Dearborn July 05, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Good point on the powers of reporting bullying incidents, Kevin, and thank you for stopping by Dearborn Patch. I'm a big supporter of your family's work on this crucial Michigan legislation.
Michelle Smith July 19, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Kids who physically bully others sometimes come from homes where adults fight or hurt each other. They may pick on other kids because they have been bullied themselves. And this trigger my concern as I have kids who just recently went to School. Though we have disciplined and raised our children well, yet knowing that bullying is visible anywhere we go. I've make sure that they have a device that allows them to alert us, speak to a Call Center for assistance and route the call to 911 with complete information. Through this application, my husband and I are now secured that they're safe. You can visit their site here: http://safetrec.com/.
Lee Jacobsen July 19, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Michelle, The best defense , to use a worn out cliche, is a good offense. Bullies pick on the weak. The weak either need to avoid environments where they need to defend themselves, or learn some basic common sense defense moves that, once used, will give bullies pause before picking on them again. Any electronic warning device will summon help far to late to be of any good in a bully confrontation. Those devices are better given to the elderly to summon help if needed, and have time to wait for the help to arrive. In Detroit , you would be waiting for days. In Dearborn, response time is still a minute or two. You can make excuses for the bullies if you want, but most bully for the 'fun' of it. We all remember 'A Christmas Story' , and the classic bully scene. See here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvijyBIgazE Ralphie took care of business, with a little training, bullies are going to be the ones 'bullied'

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