One in five students report they’ve been bullied — 15 percent in the last 12 months.
Those statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics are among the reasons Rep. Sarah Anthony has introduced a bill introduced requring teachers to receive at least one hour of training on bullying prevention.
Anthony, D-Lansing, says teachers are often the frontline. Some additional training to help teachers spot when “things are going sour” could help pull some kids out of a hard spot.
“An hour of training in order to spot this type of behavior doesn’t seem extremely unreasonable,” Anthony said.
She expects the support of the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
“We are always concerned with adding things to the certification process, but this is such a critical issue,” said MEA spokesman Doug Pratt. “The fact is, most teacher prep institutions and school districts do more than an hour on this, so setting that as a baseline makes sense. We are looking forward to working on this issue continually with Rep. Anthony and anybody else who wants to tackle this as an issue in our schools.”
Michigan lawmakers have already taken steps in recent years to tighten up the laws about bullying, including expanding the definition of bullying and creating guidelines for districts to develop action plans to combat it.
Under state law, districts are required to adopt and implement a policy to prohibit bullying but are not required to equip students or teachers with tools to deal with the issue.
“We need to make sure our teachers are equipped to combat bullying by using de-escalation techniques and other best practices and are able to support students with comprehensive counseling methods,” Anthony said.
Pratt said that having teachers trained in how to prevent bullying is a good idea, but they can’t be expected to deal with the problem alone. He noted that guidance counselors, too, are needed in the effort, which is a problem since Michigan’s standard of one for every 750 students is the highest in the nation.
And because bullying does go beyond the school walls, he said, parents have to be enlisted in the effort.
Anthony noted that some students have experienced bullying so severely that they refuse to attend school. It increases depression rates and, in some cases, has resulted in students committing some form of self-harm.
Anthony, a freshman legislator, is not sitting back. She has also introduced a bill to prohibit employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s credit history, except for certain positions, like a bank employee or a casino worker.
“It is kind of the chicken and the egg,” she said. “Folks said, ‘Finally, because a job is going to help me rebuild my credit. I will actually be able to have some money to pay down some of this debt.’ It was like an ah-ha moment.
Most of those folks were either young folks or working families who are simply trying to rebuild their lives.”
Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said his organization will be opposed.
“Small businesses and employers need the flexibility to determine if someone is the right person for the job, and the more we limit the ability for them to get that information at the front end, the more heartache it causes for both the prospective employee and the employer at the back end,” Owens said.
The legislation would prohibit employers from making hiring decisions based on an individual’s credit history or making inquiries about it.
There is an exception “if a good credit history is an established bona fide occupational requirement of the particular position or employment classification.” And the bill specifically exempts employees of banks, savings and loans, credit unions, casinos and insurers.
Anthony said young people might have poor credit because they’re strapped with student loan debt, and that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t make good employees. Low-income workers ought not be disqualified because they are in the process of trying to rebuild their credit scores, she contended.
“You would be surprised at how many people, working professionals, are still trying to rebuild their credit based on a lot of different factors, and even from the recession, folks whose homes were foreclosed upon. These weren’t people that were lazy,” she said.
(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at firstname.lastname@example.org.)