bullying

On the show today, a surprising new study shows binge drinking is up among high school students, and that's not all. It's a rising problem across the Midwest.

 Then, a very personal story from a filmmaker who overcame being a bully, and how her mission to educate kids and parents resulted in a powerful film. And, we took a look at Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's visit to Detroit and what he learned while there. 

First on the show, As Detroit's troubles and "dirty laundry" have been aired out on a world-wide stage, there has been plenty of finger-pointing and judging of the city's leaders, employees, retirees and citizens.

But a new analysis from Michigan State University suggests we might want to hold up on judging Detroit and take a look at our own cities and towns.

That MSU report finds cities all around Michigan face the very same mountain of "legacy" debt that toppled Detroit.

Study co-author Eric Scorsone joined us today.

NCWD/youth

As social media has embedded itself into our lives, so too has the national conversation about bullying.

Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media have given bullies boundless opportunities to torture their victims. What used to be something that happened in school halls and classrooms now finds its way into every corner of the lives of our young people.

One of the voices that has joined this conversation about bullying is that of a Michigan filmmaker. Her newest film, shot in Oakland County, is called "The Bully Chronicles."

It brings us the story of teen bullying through the eyes of the bully, and she recently turned to the Huffington Post, where she wrote to the teens accused of bullying a 12-year-old Florida girl to the point where she committed suicide by jumping off a tower.

Her post was headlined "From One Bully To Another: An Open Letter to Rebecca Sedwick's Bullies."

Amy Weber joined us in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Legislation proposed to criminalize bullying

May 28, 2013
NCWD/youth

Bullying could lead to jail time or a major fine in Michigan under legislation introduced Tuesday.

State Representative Dale Zorn says bullying someone, including cyber-bullying or calling someone a derogatory name, would be a criminal offense on a second occasion.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A couple hundred school counselors…mental health professionals and social workers are meeting today in Lansing.   They’re in town to discuss what can be done to reduce bullying in Michigan’s schools.

Paul Liabenow says people understand that bullying is not just about “mean girls being mean” or “bad boys will grow out of it”.

Liabenow is the executive director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association.

He says efforts in recent years to address bullying in schools are working.

Tray / Flickr

Last week in our Seeking Change series we heard about the kindness journal, an effort to get kids to write about being kind. One of the effects was fewer incidents of bullying among the kids who took part.Today we’re going to talk about cyber bullying. Paul McMullen is a father and he’s come up with a smartphone app, called Parenting Pride, to help combat cyber bullying among kids. It records text messages, but also aims to respect a teen’s desire for privacy. Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with McMullen about how he hopes to decrease bullying.

This story was informed by the Public Insight Network.

Students at Michigan State University have published a book about bullying in the age of social media. The book is a project of an advanced undergraduate journalism course on the East Lansing campus.

screengrab from Ellen DeGeneres

An Ann Arbor-area teen took on the MPAA and won.

Bob Needham from AnnArbor.com writes that earlier this year, high-schooler Katy Butler started an online petition urging the Motion Picture Association of America to change its rating of the forthcoming documentary "Bully" from R to PG-13. Butler gathered over half a million signatures in hopes of making the film accessible to younger viewers, Needham says, and now it appears she has achieved her goal.

user Tyrone Warner / Flickr

A group of high school students in Plymouth and Canton is hosting an educational summit on Saturday, Feb. 4. They want to address some of the issues gay students deal with in school. The group is known as a “gay-straight alliance," or  GSA.

Saturday’s event is open to all students, teachers and parents affiliated with the three high schools.

[F]oxymoron / flickr

Legislation to require school districts to monitor bullying over the Internet or cell phones is expected to be introduced next year.

“My fundamental interest comes from being a mom,” said one of the idea’s supporters, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer. “Everyone has known someone who has been bullied, if it’s not themself, and I think with the technology that’s available to kids today, the bullying does not stay on the program. It follows them 24/7.”

Other lawmakers have reservations about the idea.

More subpoenas issued in Wayne County probe

The FBI has issued more subpoenas in their investigation into Wayne County government. The FBI's investigation was launched last October following an uproar over a $200,000 severance payment given to former Wayne County development director Turkia Mullin.

The Detroit Free Press reports the latest subpoenas are seeking the following information:

- Records for the county's purchase of the Guardian Building, an Art Deco masterpiece that officials spent tens of millions of dollars renovating before moving in 2009.

- Contract and payment documents involving Destination Marketing Group, a Plymouth-based tourism marketing firm that had a county contract to talk to at-risk teens about mental illness.

 -Contracts and e-mails related to the county's dealings with three vendors of Health Choice, the county's health insurance program for small employers and working people.

Snyder says he was bullied after signing anti-bullying bill

After signing the state's first anti-bullying legislation into law yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder reflected on how he was bullied in school. More from the Muskegon Chronicle:

Gov. Rick Snyder is famously “one tough nerd,” but he said Tuesday that wasn't always the case.

“I was a victim of bullying,” Snyder said just after signing into law a plan requiring schools to develop anti-bullying policies, surrounded by families of children who took their lives after being harassed.

“While I didn't experience it to the same degree as these families, I was bullied because I was a nerd. I was beaten up in elementary school and middle school. I was pushed around in high school and even in college.”

Coolant leak cause of Volt battery fires?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Chevy Volt battery fires after some of their test vehicles caught fire weeks after crash tests. Now a source says the Volt's coolant system was likely the cause of these delayed fires.

From the Associated Press:

The liquid solution that cools the Chevrolet Volt's batteries is the likely cause of fires that broke out inside the electric car after government crash tests, a person briefed on the matter said...

The coolant did not catch fire, but crystallized and created an electrical short that apparently sparked the fires, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the findings are not final.

Recently, GM's CEO Daniel Akerson said the company would buy back Volts from any owners who think the cars are unsafe.

Update 4:20 p.m.

The Governor's Office sent this press release after Governor Snyder signed the anti-bullying bill:

Michigan will become the 48th state to require schools to develop and enforce policies to protect students from harassment, intimidation and physical violence under anti-bullying legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder today.

The governor called on lawmakers to pass the legislation as part of the education reform plan he proposed in April, saying students need to feel safe in the classroom so they can focus on learning.

“This legislation sends a clear message that bullying is wrong in all its forms and will not be tolerated,” Snyder said. “No child should feel intimidated or afraid to come to school.”

The governor said having a clear policy in place will give teachers and administrators the tools they need to deal with bullies, but he added that parents can help by ensuring their own children do not engage in or encourage others to bully.

House Bill 4163, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Potvin, is known as “Matt’s Safe School Law” in honor of Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who ended his life in 2002 after enduring severe bullying.  The legislation gives schools six months to develop clear anti-bullying policies so they will be in place by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.  The bill is now Public Act 241 of 2011.

A detailed description of the bill’s requirements may be found online at www.legislature.mi.gov.

3:50 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed the law that requires schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. Family members of children who committed suicide looked on as the governor signed the measure. Until today, Michigan was one of three states that did not have an anti-bullying law.

Riot Youth is an Ann Arbor-based group that supports and advocates for LGBTQ teens. For those who don't know, that's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning.

Four years ago the group surveyed students in Ann Arbor schools about bullying and sexual orientation. Using the results of that survey, and drawing on their own experiences, the teens wrote a play about bullying that they perform in schools across the state.   

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Laura Wernick, an advisor with the group, and Leo Thornton, a 10th grade student and Riot Youth board member.

Thornton, who identifies as transgender, said the group has been a life-saver. "I found Riot Youth and I realized there were not just other transgender people—there's a spectrum of other identities within the queer community, and that we all can come together and just be ourselves."

Update 11:52 a.m.

Equality Michigan, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, released a statement in response to the passage of the anti-bullying bill:

We’re thrilled that we were able to eliminate the destructive ‘license to bully’ that the Senate first approved in October. National outrage provoked by the last-minute substitution to allow bullying based on religious beliefs is a clear indicator that our Senate majority is out of touch with the voters.

That being said, we’re disappointed by the weak version of the bill passed today. Directed by the biases of a few, our Senate missed another opportunity to do right by our kids. Today’s bill will do little to stem the tide of bullying because it doesn’t enumerate commonly targeted characteristics. Case studies have found that school employees are unlikely to recognize and report incidents when bias bullying is not placed deliberately on their radar. Both Oregon and Washington passed weak bills like this one and had to go back and revise them years later when data showed the initial bills had failed. This kind of delay is not an acceptable response to Michigan's bullying crisis.

11:19 a.m.

An anti-bullying bill has cleared the Michigan legislature after the Senate passed the House sponsored bill this morning.

The bill, HB 4163, steers clear of controversial language included in an earlier Senate version of the bill (SB 137). That bill protected statements based on moral or religious beliefs.

From SB 137:

This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian.

The bill as passed by the Legislature would require all school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

Some Democrats say the bill does not go far enough to protect kids from cyber bullying or to protect gay and lesbian students.

The anti-bullying legislation now goes to the desk of Governor Rick Snyder.

A petition calling on state lawmakers to approve a strong anti-bullying bill has received more than 50,000 signatures.

The petition was started by an 11th grader and an 8th grader in Ann Arbor, on the website change.org.

Mark Anthony Dingbaum, with change.org, said the two students – Katy and Carson – want the bill to list characteristics that should be protected from bullying.

He said the students who started the petition have first-hand experience with bullying.

“They identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, across the board,” said Dingbaum. “And I know that they’ve spoken out on this issue before, and I know that they were very interested in having their voice injected into the conversation this time.”

Dingbaum said the current proposal leaves gay students out of the conversation and unprotected.

“In the process I think these students voices are getting lost, and I think what’s been really inspiring for me in hearing Katy and Carson’s story is that those groups, those enumerated groups, those enumerated protections in the bill are essential because they are the groups that are most likely to be bullied in school,” said Dingbaum.

The petition also calls on lawmakers to require schools to report bullying incidents to the state.

Democratic leaders in the state Senate say the anti-bullying measure approved by the state House last week is not perfect, but it’s a good start. They say they hope to approve that bill in a couple weeks, and will continue to push for listing and reporting requirements in the future.

A measure that would require all school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies has cleared the state House.

The proposal says there is no reason for kids to be allowed to bully each other. That sets it apart from legislation approved by the Senate last week. That bill exempted statements based on a student's deeply held religious or moral belief. Critics called the provision a license to bully. 

 “School districts across the state know the dangers of bullying and are tracking this issue head-on. And we should too. Our students deserve it," said Republican State Representative Phil Potvin, who sponsored the House bill. "We cannot sit by the sidelines anymore. There is no excuse for bullying.”

But some critics say the bill does not go quite far enough. Democratic state Representative Lisa Brown said schools should also be required to report bullying incidents to the state Department of Education.

"How many children need to be hurt?" she said. "I would hope that we’re looking to do more than just stop or prevent bully-side, but that every children—child has an opportunity to learn in a safe environment.”

 The measure was approved by a wide margin, with only a handful of Republicans voting against it.

Michigan is one of only a handful of states without a specific law making school bullying a crime. The governor wants an anti-bullying law. Various other groups do too.

This is, make no mistake, a serious issue. According to the Senate Fiscal agency, bullying has accounted for at least ten suicides in the last ten years, plus more that were likely unreported.

So yesterday, the state senate passed such a law.

But nobody, absolutely nobody, is celebrating.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Bing says city might need emergency manager

In an interview with the Detroit News, Mayor Bing said the city is facing a coming budget crises, and if it comes down to the city being run by an emergency manager, he'd consider the job.

More from the Detroit News:

Mayor Dave Bing on Wednesday said Detroit is quickly running out of cash and may require the intervention of an emergency manager, a role he is seriously considering if the governor asks.

The mayor, in an interview Wednesday, said he is troubled by a confidential Ernst & Young financial report that shows the city could run out of money by February and the fact that employee unions have not been willing to come to the table to renegotiate their contracts.

Bing said he's "got to have a heart-to-heart" talk with himself because he's already overworked and rarely sees his family, but "tough decisions need to be made."

"I'm giving that serious thought," said Bing, who is more than two years into his first term. "With an emergency manager it gives you, I think, authority and leverage to do some of the things that need to be done.

 Michigan recovery second fastest, but outlook pessimistic  The state is on a path to recovery, but it's not necessarily a rosy path.  The Detroit News reports: 

Michigan's economy is recovering from the recession at the second-fastest pace in the U.S., lifted by reviving carmakers and local manufacturers, according to a new index of state growth.

The home of Motown was topped only by North Dakota, where an oil boom is raising incomes at the nation's quickest rate... [according to] the new Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index...

"In a slow recovery like you have today, it doesn't take all that much growth to stand out," said Mark Vitner, an economist who works for Wells Fargo & Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller took a look at Michigan's seemingly mixed economic messages. She spoke with Bob Tomarelli, an analyst with IHS who said:

"So while they are getting a nice short-term burst that’s adding to payrolls and creating some jobs, or at least bringing some jobs back, it is not expected to keep up at that pace, and in the long run is actually expected to decline."

Anti-bullying measure passes Senate

The Michigan Senate passed an anti-bullying measure yesterday. More from Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network:

All school districts in Michigan may soon be required to adopt anti-bullying policies to help protect students from ridicule, humiliation and physical threats.

An anti-bullying bill approved by the state Senate would not, however, protect students from bullying done by teachers, school employees or parents.

The measure also does not protect students from cyber-bullying on home computers, nor does it list the traits or characteristics that are protected from bullying— such as gender, race or sexual orientation.

Update 5:15 p.m.

All school districts in Michigan may soon be required to adopt anti-bullying policies to help protect students from ridicule, humiliation and physical threats.

An anti-bullying bill approved by the state Senate would not, however, protect students from bullying done by teachers, school employees or parents.

The measure also does not protect students from cyber-bullying on home computers, nor does it list the traits or characteristics that are protected from bullying— such as gender, race or sexual orientation.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The Michigan Senate approved eliminating a cap on the number of charter schools, but not before a heated debate broke out about bullying.

The state Senate eventually approved a measure that eliminated restrictions on the number of university-sponsored charter schools in the state by a narrow margin. It now moves to the state House.

State Senator Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) says eliminating the cap might give students and parents more options, but not necessarily better options.

 "Good public schools should be nurtured. Bad ones, they should be shuttered. Good charter schools should be nurtured. Bad ones should be shuttered," said Johnson. "The legislation proposed today does everything to eliminate the limits on how many charter schools can open in the state of Michigan, but it does nothing to ensure that those are high-quality schools."

Prior to passage, discussion over eliminating the cap on university-sponsored charter schools turned into a heated debate over bullying.

Democratic state lawmakers tried to attach an amendment to the charter school proposal that would require charter schools to adopt anti-bullying policies that specify what qualifies as bullying.

Senator Glenn Anderson tried to tack an amendment onto the charter school bill that would require charter schools to adopt anti-bullying policies.

His bill required lists of reasons kids could not be picked on, including weight, gender, race and sexual orientation.

Republicans have traditionally railed against similar bullying lists, and Anderson says that’s not acceptable.

"The sad fact is that there are some people that believe that there are some kids that should be protected and not others," said Anderson.

State Senator Tory Rocca (R- Sterling Heights) argued a Republican proposal that does not specifically list which groups of kids should be protected from bullying is better. He said their bill does not make distinctions between who is protected and who is not.

"This is why, when I hear my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, with who I’ve repeatedly worked in good faith, make frankly hateful comments about people on this side of the aisle, saying ‘they want to see children bullied, they want to see children committing suicide,’ it is beneath contempt, frankly," said Rocca. 

In the end, Republicans voted against both bullying proposals, saying the issue should be dealt with at a later date.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As long as there have been schools, there have been school bullies.

But experts say today’s tormentors are more brutal and efficient than ever before.  And that’s left teachers and principals scrambling to figure out how to manage the problem.

In Detroit, training sessions for handling bullies start tomorrow. And the school district has also launched conflict resolution programs to help stop bullying behavior.

"They told me I seemed different"

Litandmore / Creative Commons

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants public input about bullying. The commission works to prevent and investigate discrimination complaints under state civil rights laws. It’s holding a series of forums across the state to collect the information in hopes of tackling what they say is a growing problem.