Bullycide? When I first read that word I chuckled a little. But only a little. Bullycide is more serious than the silly concoction of the two words sounds. Bullycide is suicide because of bullying. Just over a month ago, the story of a girl who killed herself because she was being bullied at school ripped through the headlines.
Eight years ago, an East Lansing eighth grader was assaulted by a high school student. The high school student never got in trouble. Just over a month later, the eighth grader could not handle the bullying anymore, and killed himself. Since then, Matt Epling’s parents have been lobbying in Michigan, and throughout the country, for tougher anti-bullying laws.
“Matt’s safe school law” has been introduced to the Michigan House and Senate several times. In 2006, Michigan adopted a state-wide anti-bullying education policy . But this is only a policy, not a law. Although the policy is out there, not all schools are enforcing it. Matt’s law would require schools to have, and enforce, an antibullying policy. Matt’s law also requires that the school’s policy address education, parental involvement, reporting, investigation and intervention.
Michigan is one of eight states that does not have a statute prohibiting bullying and harassment in public schools. Many Michigan schools have voluntarily adopted antibullying policies and procedures. Some schools even have peer review boards, where bullies must face a group of their peers, and the peers determine the punishment for their actions. Yet, since 2001, Michigan has lost six children to bullycide.
Michigan is making a step in the right direction. Thursday, the Michigan House passed Matt’s law with a 79 to 28 margin. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for approval. Arguments against the legislation assert that it will be costly, and is unnecessary because of the 2006 antibullying policy already in place.
Cadillac, Michigan can attest to the importance of having a law to mandate a bullying policy. Cadillac High School had no antibullying policy in place. In February 2009, 16 year old Alex Harrison took his life because the bullying he endured became too much for him. Since then, Cadillac has initiated a monitoring policy and workshops to help teachers and students recognize and stop bullying in their schools.
Does your school have an antibullying policy? Is it strictly enforced? Do you think the law would help?