Today marks the first day of school for students across Michigan. But a new study finds that ours is the worst state in the nation when it comes to bullying. Find out how to tell if your child is at risk, and what to do about it if your kid gets bullied.
Back to school is celebrated in America. We make a big deal about students heading back to class for a new year and new academic challenges. But we tend to overlook the social challenges they face in the classroom as well.
Every 7 minutes, another American student is bullied. The victims of bullying can face ridicule, embarrassment, humiliation, and even physical harm. And yet, most bullying incidents go unreported and unaddressed.
And no where is bullying worse than here in Michigan. According to a recent WalletHub survey, Michigan is the #1 worst place to be a student if you want to avoid being bullied. Their survey compiled 17 factors, including “bullying-incident rate”, “truancy costs for schools”, and “percentage of high school students bullied online” to determine how much of an impact bullying had in each state. Michigan had a cumulative score of 60.18, the highest in the nation. According to WalletHub, Michigan had the 3rd highest incidence of high school bullying in school and the 5th highest incidence of cyberbullying. All in all, 1 in 4 high school students will face bullying at school this year, and nearly 1 in 5 will find it online.
So as a parent, what can you do to keep your child safe?
Talk to Your Kids
Take time to develop a rapport with your kids. Make sure they know that if they are in trouble, you’ll be there to stand up for them, even if they did something wrong. Your children need to know that you will help if they are embarrassed or hurt at school.
Know Your School Policy
In 2011, Michigan adopted a law requiring every public school to adopt an anti-bullying policy. In 2015, that law was expanded to include cyberbullying. But these policies aren’t always handed out on day one. Go to your school’s website and download a copy of the policy. If you can’t find it, call the school and ask. Many schools have specific procedures to follow if you or your child need to report a bullying incident. Know what they are before you have to file the report.
Public school teachers are often overwhelmed. High classroom volumes can make it hard to give the level of supervision needed to spot bullying when it happens. Consider volunteering as a classroom monitor, even just one day a month. That way you can help by being one of the 4% of adults who will stand up to bullying.
Be An Advocate
If your child does become the victim of bullying, then it is time to fight for their rights. All too often, school administrators will take a lax approach to initial incidents of bullying. They may say the behavior is just “kids being kids” or want to give the bullies a second chance. If you don’t fight to protect your child, a bullying situation can quickly escalate, and could end up doing serious mental, emotional, and physical damage.
It’s tough being a parent these days. But with bullying affecting so many Michigan students, you can’t afford to take a hands off approach to your child’s safety in school. Know your rights and be prepared, so that if the time comes you are ready to stand up for your students.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a student’s rights attorney at Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, in Ferndale, Michigan. She represents students facing suspension and expulsion from school. If your student is having problems at school, contact Schmidt Law Services today to schedule a meeting.