LANSING — Michigan schools may not be so welcoming for students, according to two recent studies. Both Wallethub.com and Backgroundchecks.org did studies based on information from the National Center for Education Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, National Education Association and other organizations. Both websites say they have community outreach programs with writers, open data analysts and statisticians who produce studies on statewide levels.

And both ranked Michigan as one of the worst states for bullying in America.

“The purpose of the study was to understand bullying on a state-to-state basis,” said Jason Quimby, the director for outreach at Background Checks, an organization devoted to public safety, open government and transparency. “We hear about bullying as a problem on a national level, but education is fundamentally a local issue and needs to be addressed that way.”

The groups said Michigan’s main bullying problems are physical violence and online bullying. It does not rank in the top five for things like being threatened or injured with a weapon.

But Michigan health officials say the consequences of bullying are significant. Children who are bullied are more likely to consider or commit suicide or self harm and have an increased risk of anxiety, sleep deprivation and depression, said Dr. Teresa Holtrop, a pediatrician at the Detroit Medical Center and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Michigan Chapter.

“Bullying is a stressor, and chronic stressors in early childhood periods have long term health effects,” Holtrop said.

Michigan has anti-bullying laws in place. A 2011-law required schools to implement anti-bullying policies, and in 2015 Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that required them to include cyberbullying. Some of these anti-bullying policies include defining bullying, training faculty to prevent it and outlining disciplinary actions for bullies

“I think Michigan can use this study to recognize there’s a problem that is worse than many other states, as well as decide where to allocate resources to fix the problem,” Quimby said.

Parents should get involved in preventing or helping their child if they are bullied, Holtrop said.

“Keep the lines of communication open with the child in whatever way works,” he said. “Look for warning signs of withdrawal and aggressive behavior, which can be telltale signs of bullying.”

Children who are bullied need to know they can tell someone without getting labeled as a tattletale, said Suzie Gottlieb, a psychologist in Farmington Hills who works with children and teens.

“An adult who is vigilant and monitors the situation can help solve the issue,” she said.

— CAITLIN DeLUCA, Capital News Service


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