Reducing School Bullying and Preventing Adolescent Suicide

By Noah C. Hagan posted 10-21-2019 08:33


Bullying and teen suicide are growing concerns in Michigan, as recent tragedies confirm. In September 2019, lawmakers introduced two senate bills dealing with bullying and suicide prevention. SB 531 would amend the antibullying section of the school code. MCL 380.1310b was enacted in 2011 and requires school boards to adopt and implement antibullying policies. The current version of the statute encourages school boards to include provisions for antibullying task forces, annual training for administrators and school employees, and educational programs for students; the proposed amendment would mandate these provisions. The proposed amendment would also require that school boards update their antibullying policies annually.

SB 531 also includes parent notification requirements: (1) notice of bullying incidents to both the victim and perpetrator’s parent or guardian within 24 hours of the incident and (2) immediate notice to parents or guardians when a student appears “in distress.” The proposed amendment would also mandate use of the OK2SAY program, which allows students to confidentially report tips on potential harm or criminal activities occurring at Michigan schools.

SB 532 would amend another provision of the school code, MCL 380.1171, to require public schools to provide “age-appropriate and medically accurate” instruction for students and school personnel on the warning signs and risk factors for suicide and depression. It would also require notice to parents that includes a description of the instruction provided. Currently, the section encourages instruction only on suicide prevention.

These proposals come on the heels of an article in May in the Lansing State Journal stating that many, if not most, school districts are not following the current statutory requirements about school bullying.

A new law effective March 27, 2019, also attempts to reduce cyberbullying incidents by making cyberbullying a misdemeanor subject to jail time and fines. Other antibullying laws in Michigan are compiled here.