Kurt J. Kolka
Matt’s Law changing schools’ bullying policies
GAYLORD — Local school districts have been making changes to their policies since Matt’s Safe School Law was signed into law two years ago this month.
Not only does the law require schools to have an anti-bullying policy but the policy must be submitted to the State of Michigan.
The establishment of the is law has meant sweeping changes for schools across Michigan.
“We have had an anti-bullying policy for many years,” said Brian Pearson, director of curriculum of special education for Gaylord Community Schools.
“We always made changes as needed with that. But this new law meant setting that aside.”
Pearson said adopting Matt’s Law meant identifying specific staff members at each school in the district and having them undergo extensive training with experts in the field. Then, those designated personnel were put in charge of training other members of the staff. Not only were teachers trained in what to look for, but any school personnel who interact with students, including bus drivers.
The anti-bullying policy within the school system is an ongoing program. The schools are not only to hold general assemblies annually but the designated staff members also make presentations to students in individual classrooms.
“The Board of Education adopted the policy,” Pearson said. “General guidelines were created for all of the principals to follow when dealing with the situation. The principals must act within those guidelines when addressing these cases.”
Once a bullying situation has been investigated and discipline has been handed out, the counselors at the school are to follow up with students involved, both the victim and the person doing the bullying, to make sure both are progressing in positive directions.
“Gaylord Community Schools wants to make sure its schools are safe and nurturing environments for all students,” Pearson said.