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MI education official: bullying data “unacceptable”

classroom photo
Wikimedia Commons

A new report from Wayne State University suggests bullying is prevalent in Michigan schools, despite state mandated efforts. State Board of Education President John Austin calls the data “unacceptable.” We talk with Austin about bullying and the just released scores from the first ever M-STEP assessment.

Despite recent state efforts to reduce bullying, a new report suggests it is still a problem in Michigan schools. On Monday, Wayne State University officials released data indicating half of students think bullying is a problem at their schools.

John Austin is the President of the State Board of Education in Michigan. The eight-member board is the “general planning and coordinating body” for public education in Michigan.

Current State talks with John Austin about bullying, the results of the first-ever M-STEP assessment, and more.


Why does school bullying deserve more attention?
A quarter of our high school students reported being bullied on school property within the last 12 months. Bullying can not only hurt people, it can end lives.  It’s not acceptable. We need to continue that path of legislation that passed that put some teeth into our anti-bullying expectation from the state board in 2011. It still didn’t require mandatory reporting. Many schools don’t take it seriously because they aren’t held accountable for whether their kids are being bullied or not. 

What were some of the recommendations from the Wayne State University report?

We need to help implement the kind of effective programs that are out there that schools can engage with. That requires additional resources to spread these programs. But it really starts with the adults not accepting ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘we didn’t worry about bullying, this is just norm’. No, we can’t evolve and grow as a society. We don’t have to expect Lord of the Flies behavior and leave it at that. Because this is really a big problem and we need to be much more aggressive in attending to it so that our kids can learn.

What do you think of Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to ask for $715 over 10 years to pay off Detroit Public School debt?

We really need to applaud the governor for his leadership and putting together, on-balance, a very important and needed plan. Two major features of it that are terrific is one, setting up a commission and some new governance of the Detroit schools. We need to make sure all our schools succeed and if they’re not, we need to fix them and replace them and there’s a way forward in this plan to help do that. It could be a model for other big communities around the state. 
The other (issue) is, we need to help Detroit get on a solid financial footing for the long haul. The state’s got to step up and pay off the debt that is really the state’s debt. They’ve been managing the Detroit schools for the last eight or so years and this big debt load has been incurred by the state and it’s only going to get bigger unless we can find a way to pay it off.

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