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State Officials Send Letter To School Districts On Increased Bullying

Michigan Department of Education
State of Michigan

Reports of bullying and harassment are up in Michigan schools following last week’s election.  And state officials are speaking out.

The State Superintendent and Michigan Department of Civil Rights are issuing a joint letter to school districts.  The letter speaks out against recent racial and ethnic bullying.  It also offers some resources for schools on how to deal with the problem. 

Agustin Arbulu is the executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.  He says while the incidents are isolated, they still want to be proactive in responding to them. 

“Educate. That’s important, educate,” he said.  “As oppose to trying to expel, suspend – we want to really go to the heart of what’s taking place and do the right thing.  But we want to stop bad behavior.”

Almost immediately after the presidential election, there were reports of harassment and bullying in schools across the United States. 

Last Wednesday, Royal Oak middle school students chanted, “Build the wall” during their lunch hour.  The phrase comes from president-electDonald Trump’s rallies when he was campaigning.  It references Trump’s promise to build a wall along the Mexican border. 

Among other incidents, students at DeWitt Junior High Schoolreportedly shouted racially charged chants and at one point locked arms to form a human wall.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston responded to the incidents saying, “Certainly, I think the election cycle and the low level of how the candidates treated each other and comments from a particular candidate have led to some problems in our schools.”

The letter includes links to resources for schools to help deal with bullying and encourages schools to be proactive and promote a positive learning environment.

But Arbulu said the letter is also clear that the incidents need to stop. 

“Intolerable conduct aimed at bullying, harassment, causing ethnic intimidation, racial intimidation, or acts of physical violence will not be tolerated,” he said.  “And that’s, number one, our message.”

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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