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Board moves on anti-bullying policy



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February 22, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- Bullying of students in the district will not be tolerated.

While the district had a strong anti-bullying policy in place, a new policy that conforms to state requirements is even more specific about the process that will be used to address reported incidents and communication with parents about the policy and incidents, said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon.

A first reading of this new anti-bullying policy was conducted at the school board meeting Feb. 20. A public hearing on the policy, to be followed by a second reading and a board vote on approval will take place at 6 p.m., March 19, at the central district office, 1025 S. Ortonville Road.

"The entire policy has been rewritten and addresses the state requirements," said McMahon, adding that the district also followed all state recommendations.

The seven-page policy states that "bullying or other aggressive behavior toward a student, whether by other students, staff or third parties, including board members, parents, guests, contractors, vendors, and volunteers, is strictly prohibited. This prohibition includes written, physical, verbal, and psychological abuse, including hazing, gestures, comments, threats, or actions to a student, which cause or threaten to cause bodily harm, reasonable fear for personal safety or personal degradation."

The policy applies to all "at-school" activities, but also to those occurring off school property if it is a school-related activity. The policy goes a step further in also enabling the district to discipline students for misconduct occurring outside of school or school-related activities if it interferes with the school environment.

The policy goes on to define aggressive behavior, bullying, and harassment that may be disciplined.

"We are seeing now an increase in reporting of bullying because people are recognizing that bullying is occurring and as the students and staff learn more, we expect reports to go down because people will be far more aware of their own behavior as well as the behavior of others," said McMahon. "Bullying will not be tolerated, but it's essential for administrators to be told when bullying occurs so it can be addressed."

Speaking at the Feb. 20 board meeting, Brandon High School Principal Celeste Nowacki said the new "Blackhawk Hotline," established to take calls reporting incidents of bullying, has been successful since its implementation in January.

"We've received very good information on the hotline and it seems to be working well," she said. "There has been some false information, but there have been more valid calls. Some students feel the administration at the high school is too intrusive or invasive, but we are following up on what is reported."

Brandon High School students can anonymously call or text 248-660-0138 if they are being bullied, have witnessed bullying of others, or have other concerns over issues including theft, safety, or substance abuse.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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