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Posted on Mon, May 17, 2010 : 9:29 a.m. to hold panel discussion on bullying

By Staff


Photo by Flickr user wentongg

Are you worried that your child is being bullied or concerned that your child is a bully? will hold a panel discussion led by experts on the topic of bullying at 7 p.m. May 20. The event is free and open to parents, educators, medical professionals and any community members interested in the topic.

Panelists Annie Zirkel, Robin Batten and Michael Benczarski (see bios, below) will discuss how to recognize signs and respond proactively.

The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Matthew Davis and Jen Eyer, and will take place at's Community Space, 301 E. Liberty St. See full event details on the events calendar listing.

Robin Batten works for Washtenaw Area Council for Children as a internet safety facilitator. She graduated from Wayne State University with a bachelor's of arts in psychology. Her work experience includes working for Wayne State University Library Systems, Vista Maria, a residential treatment facility for teen girls, and Methodist Children's Home Society as foster care licensing specialist. She is an expert on cyber safety.

Annie Zirkel, MA LPC is a relationship and parenting consultant based in Ann Arbor. Privately and with her Don't Take The Bait Workshops, Zirkel has passionately coached hundreds of parents, children and professionals in the skills needed to successfully replace bullying with more effective interactions. Zirkel's methods include support, education, training and accountability so that all parties ultimately benefit. For additional resources and articles on bullying prevention visit the resources page at

Michael Benczarski, principal at Whitmore Lake Middle School, was emancipated and became his own legal guardian at the age of 16. A high school dropout, he became a graduate of high distinction from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's in education in 1999, and graduated from Marygrove College in 2002 with a masters in education. Benczarski has 12-plus years experience in education including work as a paraprofessional, fifth-grade teacher, eighth-grade teacher, elementary principal, middle school assistant principal and middle school principal. He is trained in Love and Logic and has experience utilizing the concept of Restorative Conferences. He is married to Jacqueline and has two beautiful children (Skyler, age 8 and Noah, age 5) and a 4-year-old black lab named Loki.

Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., is associate professor of pediatrics and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan. Dr. Davis earned his M.D. cum laude from Harvard Medical School and trained in pediatrics and internal medicine at the Children's Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He trained in public policy and health services research as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar and Irving Harris Child Policy Fellow at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Davis is also the founder and Director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health ( He also serves as Director of the Fellowship in Pediatric Health Services Research in the CHEAR Unit and Co-Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Michigan. He has been recognized with research and teaching awards at U-M and is also the recipient of the national Nemours Child Health Services Research Award in 2007.

Jen Eyer is on the Community team at She oversees the Parenting and Pets sections, and writes feature stories, blog posts and opinion pieces. She is also involved in community outreach. A 1997 graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism, she spent several years as a newspaper reporter covering local government beats, and six years as a news producer at She has written the Neurotic Mom blog on since 2004. Eyer lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, two children and golden retriever, and is active in the PTO and Girl Scouts.


James Gruber

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 6:41 p.m.

I've done research on bullying and sexual harassment of middle and high school girls and boys for the last decade. And there is no question that sexual harassment causes much more harm to children's health and well-being as well as their commitment and attachment to school than bullying. The current focus on bullying is well-intentioned but, I believe, misguided. Sexual harassment is against the law; bullying is not! Parents have much more power and legal recourse by focusing on sexual harassment than on bullying. It is unfortunate that sexual taunting and sexualized aggression is mislabeled as "bullying" because it is in fact sexual harassment. The law against same-sex harassment in the workplace (e.g., men threatening to sodomize one of their male coworkers) has been well established for over a decade. So, why don't we use the existing laws to protect our children!!! James E. Gruber Professor of Sociology

Annie Zirkel

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 9:32 p.m.

@Jim Toy - Thanks for your continued efforts to educate people on the challenges that GLTBQ students face when it comes to bullying. You are a true champion for these students. And that is what all kids need. Champions, role models and people paying attention and caring about how children are being treated and how they are treating each other. @Zulu As for the panel diversity - though not of an ethnic kind, I think we represent diverse voices, perspectives and knowledge. Hopefully we can offer some support and potential solutions for those who need it. As for my part - be fair-warned. I come from a reasoned approach. I believe that one of the most important things we need to do is help our kids learn how to stand up for themselves while also helping them know under what circumstances they should not be expected to do so. Then making sure kids know that we have their backs - by actually having their backs! Of course it may ruffle a few feathers but I believe in having ALL kids backs - even those who bully. And while they may need something different, we can't forget that they are kids too. Just using our power as adults to try to trump the power of kids who are bullying often doesn't work or only works when it's too late. Backed into a corner, many bullying kids will just bide their time and take out their anger on the child we were trying to protect or the next vulnerable kid who comes along. We may ultimately need to come in and use laws and the courts to make it stop but by then we have likely lost two kids! I do think adults (parents and professionals) need to use their power and be more active in setting the tone. But this is best done early and often, communicating clear and high expectations AND holding children accountable when smaller infractions occur. But we also need to solve these problems though education, skill-building, helping children become aware of how their actions impact others AND helping them care! The best way to help bullying kids care? Care about them while we ask them to care about others! I look forward to our discussion. Let's all get involved to make some changes for the better.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 6:25 p.m.

bullying is a conspiracy many times.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 6:23 p.m.

extreme bullying should be considered torture. maybe if it was a felony charge up to a year in jail it would stop. for example if a kid commits suicide do to bullying and if there is evidence that's murder.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

I'd rather see a forum made up of experts, regardless of race and sexual orientation. Bullying is unacceptable and we don't need "balance representation" to understand that.

Jim Toy

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

Thanks to all who have planend this panel discussion. Does any of the panelists identify as intersex/transgender/bisexual/lesbian/gay/queer? The state House has passed an antibullying bill that would, if adopted by the full legislature and signed by the governor, mandate antibullying policies and their implementation in our K-12 schools. Any adopted policy needs to enumerate gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation as classes protected from bullying. TBLGQ students in particulzr are singled out for harassment. Some, as we know to our shame and sorrow, kill themselves as a oonsequence of being bullied.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 12:31 p.m.

I think this forum is a very good idea especially in light of some recent developments in our community. However,, where's the diversity? Are any of your panelists African American? If you are going to hold this type of community forum, balance representation is very important.

Kristin Judge

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 11:55 a.m.

Thank you for taking in interest in our community and our children in this way. Many local, state and federal people working in the field of Internet Safety have come together to join the Washtenaw County Internet Safety Task Force that Sheriff Jerry Clayton and I have put together. The issue of bullying is now directly tied to the Internet with the use of electronics as the preferred method of communication by our young people. I look forward to's continued involvement in the task force and our community! Thanks for your leadership. Ann Arbor DOES have a paper. We have 3 good papers actually, they just look a bit different than they used to. However, different is not always a bad thing!