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Kids or criminals

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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Bullying, a focus for educators for several years, is a line item in the crime statistics, and one that has not seen a spike from the recent election season in local districts, despite the incidents in Royal Oak Middle School, where students were caught stating racists chants, and a noose was found in a boy's restroom.

"We haven't seen any escalation in bullying since the election," said Pam Zajac, spokesperson, West Bloomfield Schools. "We have our political leadership classes where they talk and discuss the issues. They may be disappointed, but they're learning to deal with it. One of the plusses we have in our district is that it is very diverse, and they are used to being with so many ethnicities and religions. They're already out in the real world. They're very worldly."

D­etective Mike Romanowski of the Birmingham Police Department is a school liaison officer at Seaholm High School, along with a variety of private and parochial elementary, middle and high schools in Birmingham. "Quite frankly, with the schools I'm in, I'm not seeing a huge trend in bullying in social media or in person," he said. "Bullying is looked down upon for any kind of disability or any kind of financial hardship. I don't see anything racial."

In last year's reporting, there were 34 incidents of bullying in Birmingham; two in Bloomfield Hills; 36 in West Bloomfield; 22 in Rochester; 52 in Troy; and 75 cases in Pontiac.

When incidents are unresolvable, suspensions and/or expulsions may occur. At the local districts, representatives stated that suspensions are primarily an administrative and staff decision, while expulsions must go before the local board of education. All of the districts make it clear to students and parents up front, listing the reasons and specifics in their Student Code of Conduct on their websites.

"Any time a student is missing school, whether a suspension or an expulsion, it has to go before our school board," said Annette McAvoy, public relations and communications supervisor for Avondale Schools. "It's a really big deal for a student to miss school."

"An expulsion is such a major step that it is thoroughly vetted. It's a decision that absolutely has to go through the board, based on recommendations by administration," said Birmingham's Wilkinson. "It's such a serious issue. If it involves a student, it would be a closed session. A suspension is a little different – it's usually short-term, and goes through the building principal on whatever issue it is."

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