2017-10-22 / Editorial

Takes a community to stop bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month — an opportunity The County Press will devote attention to in today’s INSIGHT section. We will take a deeper look at what local school districts are doing to identify and reduce bullying in our community — though bullying is not just limited to children. Adults bully too.

The serious nature of bullying and its potential harm to the children of Lapeer County are too great to miss the opportunity afforded by bullying prevention awareness month not to talk more about it.

The sad news, according to statistics compiled by the State of Michigan, is that every seven minutes a child is bullied; 85-percent of the time, there is no intervention of any kind.

Individuals with autism are one of the highest targeted groups to be the victims of a bully with numbers ranging from 65-90 percent. Bullying is a leading factor in suicide among kids 11-16 years old.

In 2011, Michigan became the 48th state to require schools to develop and enforce policies to protect students from harassment, intimidation and physical violence under anti-bullying legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The governor called on lawmakers to pass the legislation as part of an education reform plan he proposed, saying students need to feel safe in the classroom so they can focus on learning. House Bill 4163 is known as “Matt’s Safe School Law” in honor of Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who ended his life in 2002 after enduring severe bullying.

On a statewide level, there are outreach programs underway trying to reach school-age children.

The Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights (MDCR) own Anthony Ianni, one of the most sought after anti-bullying advocates in the state and across the country, has pledged to visit as many schools as possible in Michigan during 2017.

The Relentless Tour with Anthony Ianni, for example, is a first of its kind grass roots initiative designed to help eradicate bullying across the state of Michigan and beyond.

Anthony’s story is one that reaches everyone. Diagnosed with autism at a young age Anthony’s parents were told he would never graduate, never play sports and likely have to live in a group home for his entire adult life. Anthony was bullied extensively as a child because of his autism and the fact that he shot up to 6-foot-9 quite young.

Anthony defied all of the odds and not only graduated from MSU with a degree in sociology but went on to be the first known individual with autism to play college basketball. During his time on the team he played in two Big Ten Championships and a Final Four.

And now he is sharing his story and helping others live their dreams. It is our intent today in INSIGHT to engage the conversation about bullying in the hope to spotlight the good work being done in our community — recognizing that more can be done.

When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable.

Parents, school staff, and other adults in Lapeer County can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.

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