Schools Safe For Children
Korie Wilkins, Oakland Press, January 5, 2006
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Prosecutor Dave Gorcyca’s anti-bullying program is no more, but
local officials are working to keep the problem of school
violence in check.
In fact, Oakland Schools has a committee that is looking at the
entire issue of school safety. The committee is expected to
present its findings and a recommendation in January, said
Shelley Yorke Rose, the intermediate school district’s
The intermediate school district is surveying local districts
and will look at what’s mandated federally and by the state, in
terms of school safety, before deciding on an action plan.
“There are a lot of things that fall under school safety,
including bullying,” she said. “So we have a committee to look
at the issue.”
In the wake of the shootings at Columbine High School in
Colorado in April 1999, the issue of bullying and school safety
came to the forefront. Two students, Dylan Klebold and Eric
Harris, killed 12 students and a teacher before committing
suicide. Both Klebold and Harris had been teased and mocked for
their hobbies and appearance.
To prevent such a massacre in Oakland County, Gorcyca launched
his School Violence Prevention Program, which has been lauded by
law enforcement officials and school authorities as a huge
success. But the program, which officially ended last week, was
the victim of federal budget cuts, Gorcyca said.
In February, Gorcyca was predicting the end, but hoped he could
save the 6-year-old program.
“It’s very sad,” he said. “We just couldn’t get the funds
together to save the program, either publicly or privately.”
Gorcyca said the program — funded by a federal $70,000 Juvenile
Accountability Incentive Block Grant that paid for full-time
social worker Lori Parrish, who teaches both staff and students
at area schools to appropriately deal with bullying — helped
teach more than 47,000 students about bullying and conflict
resolution in 135 schools.
The program promoted reporting of the behavior, taking measures
to stop bullying and supporting victims as part of a majority
that endorses acceptance of all students.
But under county rules, when grant funding ceases, a program is
abandoned. Gorcyca said there has been a lot of talk about
finding a new way to fund the program and community leaders
aren’t abandoning hope of restarting it just yet.
“We still need to eliminate fear in the schools,” he said. “And
we know this program had a definite impact on the county. Could
it have prevented a Columbine-like problem here? Maybe.”
In fact, Gorcyca said that in schools where the program was
implemented, administrators noticed a decline of 20 to 30
percent in behavioral problems and disciplinary issues.
According to Oakland Schools, bullying is the most frequently
occurring form of violence in schools. It’s not just teasing and
it’s not normal. Officials say it is a learned behavior and can
damage children as much as child abuse.
A 2001 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention showed that about 10,000 children a day stay home
from school at least once a month because they feared bullies.
That’s why Oakland Schools is trying to do more for local
districts. Yorke Rose said officials there take the issue of
school safety very seriously and hope to offer similar
“We recognize the importance of school safety,” she said.
“Obviously, we wish this program was still in place.”
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