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East Lansing advocate: Jury award should impact bullying

March 14, 2010

Dane Patterson, now 19, sued Hudson Area Schools in 2005 because of repeated bullying that started with name-calling in middle school. The situation escalated over years. His locker and notebook were defaced and he endured sexual insults. In 10th grade, he was taunted in a locker room by a naked student who rubbed up against him.

Patterson and his family filed a sexual harassment lawsuit under federal Title IX law, the Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Like most school districts in Michigan, Hudson schools has an anti-bullying policy, and took action against individual students when the bully could be identified. According to Patterson’s attorney, Terry Heiss, the school should have done more to break the pattern of bullying.

The Lansing School District already has an anti-bullying policy, district spokesman Steve Serkaian said. School administrators handle many situations, but the district, in conjunction with the Resolution Services Center, also offers a program known as “restorative justice.”

It puts the offender and the person who has been offended into a room with a trained mediator and, often, parents or family members. They discuss what happened and how it affected each person involved.

“There are definitely cases we do that are prompted because of bullying,” said Nancy Schertzing, coordinator of the district’s program. “It’s a very powerful tool for people to come together.”

Read the whole article.


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