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Posted on Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor Public Schools releases first draft of anti-bullying policy

By Danielle Arndt

Related story: Ypsilanti schools defines 'bullying conduct' in proposed new anti-bullying policy

Ann Arbor Public Schools is in the process of developing its first anti-bullying policy.

The process must be completed by June 6 per a state mandated timeline under the new legislation enacted in January that requires all districts in Michigan to adopt a policy against bullying at school.


Members of Ann Arbor's Riot Youth give suggestions for the district's first anti-bullying policy at an Ann Arbor Public Schools board meeting in February.

Danielle Arndt I

The law, Public Act 241, also says districts must submit policies to the Department of Education by the June date.

AAPS has never had a Board of Education policy on bullying.

Dave Comsa, deputy superintendent of human resources and legal services, said the policy draft before the board is "very simple" and "basically sticks" to the nine items the state mandates be included.

During an initial reading of the policy, however, Trustee Simone Lightfoot expressed her concern that a number of the items seemed open-ended and gave authority to Superintendent Patricia Green to develop them further without board input.

The state of Michigan says the following must be included in the policy:

  • A statement prohibiting bullying of a pupil
  • A statement prohibiting retaliation or false accusation
  • A provision indicating all pupils are protected and that bullying is equally prohibited without regard to subject matter or motivation
  • A statement regarding which school official is responsible for ensuring the policy is followed
  • A statement describing how the policy will be publicized
  • A procedure for reporting bullying
  • A procedure for notifying the parents of the victim(s) or perpetrator(s) of the bullying
  • A procedure for promptly investigating all reported incidents of bullying and identifying who is responsible for the investigation
  • A procedure for reporting bullying and the resulting consequences to the district’s board of education on at least an annual basis

AAPS’ draft says bullying should be reported to the school principals or assistant principals. It also says students can report bullying to a teacher or counselor if they choose, and these staff members then are required to inform the building’s leaders.

Per the current draft, Green would develop administrative procedures for notifying parents of the students involved in bullying incidents after the board approves the policy. Green also would retain the right to craft and implement regulations for investigating bullying complaints that building leaders would be expected to follow.

Lastly, if passed, the policy would delegate to Green the function of establishing procedures for documenting and tracking reports of bullying.

Trustee Susan Baskett asked if the board would be able to see and provide input on these procedures before implementation. President Deb Mexicotte said board approval is not required for these items but if the board wanted to see them, she was certain the administration would oblige.

Mexicotte said she also would like to see AAPS possibly consider adding “whistleblower protections” to the policy so students will not be fearful of reporting incidents.

Lightfoot asked about the various types of bullying — such as verbal versus cyber bullying, physical assault and others — and whether punishments for these would be clearly defined in the policy. Comsa said this likely would fall under the not-yet-developed administrative regulations. He added the district-wide discipline form that currently is being piloted also will help capture and record this information.

In February, the Ann Arbor Neutral Zone’s Riot Youth, comprised of local high school teenagers, many of whom have been bullied for their sexual orientation, voiced a number of recommendations to the board and administration when talks about drafting this new anti-bullying policy began.

The youth asked for comprehensive and extensive reporting requirements for each bullying category as well as additional conflict prevention and management components for peers to engage in.

“It’s not just the policy, though,” said Riot Youth member Emma Upham, a senior at Saline High School, said in February. “It’s the follow-through and how the policy is enforced and what happens to students after issues are brought to an adult’s attention.”

Many public commenters at February’s meeting told stories about AAPS administrators “sweeping” bullying incidents “under the rug” after they or their children filed reports.

The board is expected to discuss any additional tweaks to the anti-bullying policy at Wednesday's Committee of the Whole meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Balas Administration Building.

A public hearing on the policy, as is required by state law, will be conducted during the board's regular meeting on May 23. A public hearing on the 2012-13 budget also is scheduled for this date.

Download a copy of the proposed anti-bullying policy here.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Sandra Samons

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

Not having read the details of this policy, but based only on the reporting, this sounds very lame to me. Shouldn't the policy begin by defining bullying? Shouldn't there be some proactive suggestions for prevention instead of simply reacting after the fact? Shouldn't the kids be heard, since they are the best first hand observers? This sounds like the same thing over and over....go through the motions of appearing to take action so you will look good while only doing that which is required by law, and once you have a policy you have shown your compliance without actually doing anything. This is a school board in a community that prides itself on intelligence. We aught to be leading, not following.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

I would like to also mention that Ann Arbor does NOT have a policy on teachers bullying students. My daughter was in 4th or 5th grade a few years ago. She was in gym class and had to tie her shoe duirng the warm up laps. When she was done she fell back into line and thought she had run her required laps. However, the teacher DID NOT. He called her a LIAR in front of the entire class and told her to run 2 additional laps while entire class watched her. When I went to the principal (who by the way did not understand or perhaps care why she was being brought into the matter) she informed me that Ann Arbor does NOT have a teacher/student bully policy. I did some research and discovered the impact a teacher can have on the student's self-esteem. It was particularly bad for girls. Please understand that my daughter has ALWAYS received a presidential fitness patch. That means that you can do various physical activities (long jump, pull-ups, sit ups, 50 yeard dash, mile run.....) and you are in the top 85% of kids in this country for your age group. According to my research about 30% of student are bullied at some time by a teacher. Mostly it happens in high school and often becuase the teacher is afraid of the student. While I understand and appreciate that a student to student bully policy does need to be addressed, we are ignoring another issue that impacted my "straight A, very athletic student" quite negatively. Ann Arbor does sweep certian things "under the rug".

John Hritz

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

Since we don't have a link to the draft language, I can't comment specifically, but there should be a distinction between legitimate disputes poorly resolved and casual cruelty which covers a host of offenses that if adults did them would be a crime (slander, libel, battery, theft, etc). Kids need to learn conflict resolution so they can solve problems themselves. Many of the bullies actions are a result of their peers accepting the behavior and not enforcing norms. The article hints that most of the power to deal with incidents is pushed up to administrators and law enforcement instead of providing avenues for children to use when their own efforts fail. If someone can post a link to the draft, that would help the discussion.

Danielle Arndt

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

John, the last sentence of the article contains a link for downloading the proposed anti-bullying policy. It is not online, so we uploaded a PDF. If you click "here," the policy should automatically download to your computer.

G. Orwell

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

During the past 10-12 years our overlords have passed so many laws and regulations, just about anything we do could be considered illegal or a violation of a law. They keep piling more laws on top of more laws. We are being enslaved in our own country by thousand cuts. Are our overloads working for us, the bosses, or are they enslaving us?

Ron Granger

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Bullying is almost always a part of the corporate world. Anyone who thinks you "tell" on bullies by reporting them to HR is in for a rude awakening. It is critical that kids learn how to deal with bullies while they are young. It's a rough world out there.

Ron Granger

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

It's like it's open season on bullies. Experts say most bullies are victims of bullying. Aren't bullies people too? Why is it okay to persecute bullies? Aren't they a protected minority? Do we need affirmative action for bullies?


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

I think it's great that there's so much talk about bullying though. I feel absolutely terrible for any kids who are bullying victims. I have been the bully and the victim many times, and only in retrospect do I understand the error of my ways. We need to openly talk about this with our kids, because I think they're intelligent enough to understand why it's wrong to treat others badly.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

The idea that you can curb bullying through rules is just plain unrealistic. Do they expect new rules to change the way children act? Maybe they'll suspend some kids for bullying, but let's face it, most bullying is not physical and can't be easily judged as bullying. A better way to stop bullying would be for parents, teachers and staff to be more responsible in teaching their children and pupils the values of treating others with dignity and respect. I know that's difficult and not realistic either, but it would be wise to teach children how to be good people instead of just good students. I think it's a noble effort to curb bullying, but unfortunately, it's not going to work.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

I want to congratulate the Ann Arbor School Board for listening to the input of students. The Neutral Zone's Riot Youth teens have shown incredible courage and leadership and I applaud them for taking a stance against bullying. Too many young people have dropped out of school, committed suicide and have generally lost so much of their potential because of bullying. I don't believe bullying is ever acceptable -- as some other commenters have implied. Our children are in school to learn, and they cannot do so when bullied. I am thrilled that our school district is doing something about this problem. And thank you to the author for including a link to the draft policy.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

OMG this is a joke right? I mean my child was bullied thru this system and I had to force the state law against them. The AAPS schools told me they had a policy in place. You know who won? The bully. Why? because there wasn't any proof when there were tons of witnesses to the fact. Parents need to stay vigilant on this one. AAPS does sweep this stuff under the rug. Good luck with this new policy. Same thing different venue.

michal poe

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

I think awareness of bullying is very important. But, I worry about laws and regulations. I'm afraid they will be misinterpreted to the point of when the junior high student was expelled because she offered a fellow student a Midol, (drug pushing?) or a 2nd grader was sent home for carrying a nail file, which she didn't know she was possessing (weapons charges) , or how about the kindergarten student who was deemed sexually inappropriate for doing a little dance, he'd been taught by his elders or even from watching T.V., maybe the football halftime shows....these things stay on a kid's record and I don't know if formally regulating things is the best way. But I don't have any answers either except I wished we lived in a kinder world.

Steve Hendel

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Well, duh, how about a few paragraphs in the proposed regs actually DEFINING the offense of bullying?

Michigan Man

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

This is now my 2nd post on this matter this morning. My 1st post was deleted. Not sure why. Let me try and restate of earlier comments. I am a graduate of the Ann Arbor Public School system having graduated from HS in Ann Arbor in 1967. All forms of bullying were rampant back in the day. I was would ask that those who are looking at/considering/will activate a "new" bullying policy consider all sides of the bullying, not just the more politically correct version of bullying. All groups, both majority and minority can bully others. Men should not bully women. Whites should not bully latinos. Blacks should not taunt whites. Gays should not mock straights. This "new" AAPS policy should have equal opportunity protection for all groups in Ann Arbor. Far too much bullying, of all people and groups, has been prevalent in Ann Arbor for years/decades!


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

I was in the middle and high school AAPS. The teachers did absolutely nothing. So I take a stand on where you are coming from. This was late 70's and early 80's. Now it is 2000 and my child is getting a take on AAPS bullying. Even though they have a policy? Not a lot of admins are going to enforce this. AAPS? I can't wait to see you enforce this.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

Once again, just like the "achievement gap" and "discipline gap," the actual cause of the problem is being ignored: parents who are failing to do their job.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

How will they enforce anything if the bully should happen to be someone who they don't want to be counted in the discipline gap numbers?

Michigan Man

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

I am a graduate of the Ann Arbor public schools back in the day (in the 1960's). As I recall, bullying was rampant back in the day in Ann Arbor. Not only did I witness countless examples of all forms of bullying I was bullied by the gays in Ann Arbor because I was straight. I was made fun of, taunted, mocked and invited to gay parties to see what was happening. I was just not interested in checking out what the gays were into. I would hope this "new" Ann Arbor public school policy takes into account all aspects of bullying, not only those examples that may be politically correct or politically expedient in Ann Arbor.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : midnight

Bullying is bullying, but seriously, bullied by "the gays" in the 60's? Kids weren't "out" in high school back then.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

Oh come on....bullied by "the gays" because you were straight. I call your bluff...that is an outright lie.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

So schools didn't have rules against bullying before? Or rules against making false accusations? We don't need more laws, we need more adults with common sense. This will add more bureacracy and paperwork to already overburdened teachers. They will have to be careful to follow detailed rules, and they will lose the ability to react according to the situation. The legislature cannot solve all our problems with laws. Trying to do so is destroying our society.

Ron Granger

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Does this apply to bullying by the teachers and staff? They were always, by far, the biggest bullies when I went to school.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

Two quick points: As the Riot Youth group commented, administrative follow-through and implementation rather than the current widespread efforts to cover-up bullying will be essential to AAPS developing an anti-bullying program that works. Secondly, teachers and other adults in the schools must explicitly teach students how to disagree with a statement from a fellow student or a teacher or motivate a change in behavior without resorting to name-calling or threats. In several cases I'm aware of, the adults in the schools need to do a better job of modelling non-bullying behavior towards students and each other


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

I believe that the immortal Bill and Ted put it best: Be EXCELLENT to each other!

Rose Garden

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

I am so happy this policy is being put into place. Forty years ago I was teaching high school. A student had just taken a test in my class which was the last period of the day. He was bullied, again, at the bus stop and went home and hanged himself. He had scored a 94% on the test. What a waste of a valued human being. I have grieved over the years for this young man. I have imagined all of the experiences in life that he has missed. Limiting free expression as has been suggested here is not to big of a price to pay to save someone's dignity and life.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Rose - I'm fairly sure that your late student was being bullied by his age-mates in part BECAUSE of his intelligence and academic achievement. My kids are regularly taunted by their AAPS classmates, and occasionally criticized by their teachers for "acting smart". We desperately need teachers and school administrators to set, model, and enforce standards of behavior for their students that encourage everyone to express themselves in ways that do not attack, threaten or disrespect the others participating in the discussion.

Rose Garden

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

I meant to say "too" big of a price to pay

Wolf's Bane

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

I echo the concerns of Riot Youth member Emma Upham, follow through and appropriate punishment of bullying is just as important as identifying a procedure for what bullying is. I think the last thing we all want is for victims to take matters into their own hands. On a side note, I think most of us have been bullied at one time or another. It is the way deal with them that defines and builds character. In my case, I vanquished my bullies over 38 years ago.

G. Orwell

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

Obviously everyone is against bullying but these anti-bullying policies are nothing more than indoctrinating children against free speech and expression. These kids are going to grow up being afraid to speak out or speak their minds. Total Orwellian nanny state. Children should be thought how to handle bullying. Not limit their speech.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Vida? Same thing in our neighborhood. Cops said something must happen in order for them to do anything about it. Guess it goes without saying. Authority figures really do not want to deal with the playground bully.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

You are so right! They are not being taught how to handle bullying, they are being taught to run and tell and authority figure before they deal with it. My son was accused of bullying when in fact he was not being a bully. He didn't want to be friends with a boy but this boy wouldn't leave him alone, knocked on our door 4 times an evening, slandered my son, followed my son around. My son would play with this boy periodically and then complain that this kid didn't play nice, put everyone down and was obnoxious. My son was civil but finally got to the point where he had to say, stop following me - we really can't be friends. Eventually, things got unpleasant and then the parents of that boy claimed my son was bullying their son and not being his friend. The school agreed my son was not a predator but because that other family filed something they had to "go throw the hoops" and do what was expected under the guidelines of the school and put it in the "file".

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Nailed it!

G. Orwell

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

Meant to say taught. Not thought.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:35 a.m.

"During an initial reading of the policy, however, Trustee Simone Lightfoot expressed her concern that a number of the items seemed open-ended and gave authority to Superintendent Patricia Green to develop them further without board input." Watch out, she might give the policy a raise...