Howard Elementary students take part in an advanced reading lesson Friday morning. Parents have expressed concerns lately about bullying after a TV news report indicated Howard students were scared to go to school. Administrators explained the bullying was an isolated incident between two students.

Archived Story

Niles addresses bullying claims

Published 6:20pm Friday, April 29, 2011

Gov. Rick Snyder said this week he will push Michigan to join 45 other states in passing an anti-bullying bill into law.
“Bullying is a school issue,” he said. “It must be dealt with in school before it becomes a law enforcement issue.”
The message is one being heard loud and clear in Niles after a spotlight was put on Howard Elementary School earlier this week.
A report by ABC 57 claimed the school’s students were in fear due to incidents of bullying at the school and on the playground.
Supt. Richard Weigel and Howard Elementary Principal Michelle Asmus sat down with the Star on Friday to discuss their bullying policy and address any concerns of parents.
“We define bullying as an act that is targeted or repeated,” Asmus said.
In the last year or so, Asmus estimated dealing with “about a handful” of such incidents.
Clarifying the news report, Asmus said a particular incident occurred between two students who received consequences for their inappropriate behavior while on the playground. Following that, she said the issue continued away from school. She also said no threats were made on school property and  the two had not had any problems at school prior.
“We had received no parent complaints on bullying all year long until just recently,” Asmus said.
“Those are surprising phone calls,” Weigel said. “And of course we take them very seriously and follow up accordingly.”
Each school in Niles Community Schools has its own official bullying policy. Still, Weigel said the state signing its own anti-bullying law, “elevates the awareness,” among districts, parents and the community.
At both Howard and Ballard schools, which teach the same grade levels, incidents reported to teachers and administrators are entered into a database “so we can pick up on patterns or targets,” Asmus said.
Behaviors are broken down into four levels: minor, moderate, more severe and most severe.
Some examples of behaviors in each category include name calling or rude gestures at the minor level, swearing, humiliating, shoving or hitting at the moderate level; fighting and punching at the more severe level; and physical violence resulting in medical attention and sexual or ethnic harassment at the most severe level.
When the incident occurs, Asmus said students are given consequences such as calls to a parent, in-school suspension, written apologies, detention or meeting with a behavior specialist.
The consequences increase should the behavior reoccur.
“Are there inappropriate behaviors? Yes,” Asmus said, adding that each of the more than 800 students going to Howard-Ellis Elementary School are at an age where they are being taught what appropriate behaviors are.
“We feel it’s our job to teach them right now how to interact with each other,” she said.
According to the school’s data, approximately 7 percent of Howard’s students have had between two and five referrals for behavior; 2 percent have received more than six; and close to 1.5 percent have received more than nine.
Asmus said she addressed the issues in question with the affected parents this week and had not received any complaints from other parents since the report aired.
At Ballard, Principal David Eichenberg said the school’s behavior specialist gave a special presentation to students about what constitutes bullying prior to spring break. Students also signed a pledge that promoted good behaviors.
“We do have kids who will say mean things to other kids or push and shove kids,” he said.
What he hasn’t seen is a victim who experiences those behaviors day in and day out.
Ballard also hold code of conduct meetings for incidents at severe or repeated levels in which the student, parents, a panel of three administrators and the school’s behavior specialist sit down to address the issue.
A national spotlight has also been put on the issue of bullying in schools as more and more incidents of “cyber bullying” and severe bullying have even ended with fatal results.
Which leaves schools like Howard and Ballard with the critical responsibility of addressing an age-old issue with a renewed focus.

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  • christy2690

    “We had received no parent complaints on bullying all year long until just recently,” Asmus said.

    This state ment is VERY untrue i have been there this year and or called due to bully trouble many times before christmas even, I have even contacted a Lawyer out of grand rapids to be advised of waht my legal rights were due to the issues.

    So all’s i’m saying is she HAS had calls about bullying.

    i have MANY books on bullying and the comment
    “We do have kids who will say mean things to other kids or push and shove kids,” he said.
    is BULLYING maybe he should be reschooled on what defines bullying as that is EXACTUALY what the books tell you is the problem people see that as kids being kids and it’s NOT it’s the most mild form of bullying there is and it’s being allowed all over this counrty to happen and being over looked as kids being kids.
    We need to stop this blind eye “not in our school” mentality and address the issues in ours schools so they dont get out of hand. Niles has enought school issues with state funding and such without allowing this to get out of hand and make the district look bad, open your eyes and help the parents that reach out cuz if they don’t call and tell you then it must not be that bad to them.
    Communication is the key to the whole issue and it needs to be on BOTH sides parents and adminisrators alike.We need ot work together to make our childrens education better and make our kids safe not fight like a bunch of kids. Finger pointing is going to get this no where.SO STEP UP folks and make this fixed for the children put your ego aside and help make SURE this dont happen to the kids in this community, instead of bickering about if it is or isn’t happening.

  • christy2690

    “We had received no parent complaints on bullying all year long until just recently,” Asmus said.

    This state ment is VERY untrue i have been there this year and or called due to bully trouble many times before christmas even, I have even contacted a Lawyer out of grand rapids to be advised of waht my legal rights were due to the issues.

    So all’s I’m saying is she HAS had calls about bullying.BUT what needs to happen is not finger pointing.
    We need to stop this blind eye “not in our school” mentality and address the issues in ours schools so they dont get out of hand. Niles has enought school issues with state funding and such without allowing this to get out of hand and make the district look bad, open your eyes and help the parents that reach out cuz if they don’t call and tell you then it must not be that bad to them.
    Communication is the key to the whole issue and it needs to be on BOTH sides parents and adminisrators alike.We need ot work together to make our childrens education better and make our kids safe not fight like a bunch of kids. Finger pointing is going to get this no where.SO STEP UP folks and make this fixed for the children put your ego aside and help make SURE this dont happen to the kids in this community, instead of bickering about if it is or isn’t happening.

  • crazylady1

    UGGH!! help 2 comment posted and shouldnt have someone help me fix it the 2ndone was the one i wanted posted HELP!!!

  • NilesMa

    First of all christy2690 you talk about pointing fingers and acting like children and yet that is what YOU have been doing over and over again.You are the one who is making issues worse for your children by continuing this issue.Think about what your poor children must feel like because of what you have done.There are better ways to go about getting answers and getting things accomplished.You cant just call the school a few times or the superintendent and then if you dont hear anything then you sit back and gripe about it.You take yourself up to the school.Mrs.Asmus is in the same spot every day,every afternoon.She is almost always in her office every afternoon and when school gets ready to be let out she is outside with the buses.Yes,its hard to track her down on the phone sometimes but its never hard to find her at the school in person. You need to quit with this because you have already taken it too far and at this point no one will ever take you seriously again when it comes to an issue with your children because you have blown it so far out of proportion.If you are that unhappy with Howard School then by all means please move your child somewhere else.Because I can almost guarantee that somehow “magically” you will have these same issues at another school too because this is what you do best.Keep drama going.Does Howard have problems with bullying? Yes! So does every other school anywhere else. Some of us are very happy with Howard and most of its administration and dont appreciate it being labeled like this.When we arent happy we go to the right people to let them know that.But doing it the way you did? Too much.

    Second of all-statement,I,and/or,Christmas,Grand Rapids,what,all,I’m,I,EXACTLY,enough,because(not cuz),administrators,
    Please use spellcheck or something before trying to argue a point.It only takes ten seconds to proofread.It doesnt help your case when so many words are spelled wrong.

    And third,yes Niles does have issues such as funding,teacher layoffs etc.Those are the issues we should be focused on but because of you and a few others we are forced to focus on this instead.Just stop already,talk to the right people at the school,quit pointing fingers yourself and instead sit down with these people and try to figure out a way to remedy the situation.You may not like everything you hear but you have to be willing to compromise also.Start REALLY thinking about your children and what you are doing to them by keeping this nonsense going day after day.

  • crazylady1

    WOW NilesMa you sure are nasty and judgemental over somone else’s psot, do you know what has or has not been done for anyone with issues or not with issues sounds to me like you judge people unfairly and should maybe ask questions before getting rude, and really you attack somones spelling or typo’s what are we children?? maybe you were a bully in school cuz you sure sound like one now in that post

  • crazylady1

    BTW nilesma i am not unhapy i jsut pointed out she miss spoke my issues are resolved and my children are happy and doing just fine in school and me and Mrs. Asmus have a fine relationship i talk to her anytime aboutanything and she calls if need be, so lets not attacke me i was not one of the 2 moms on TV if that’s what your assuming.I bought my home to be by this school so lets not make hasty judgements where they dont need to be

  • Motherof3

    Bullying happens in all schools; elementary through high school! My son has been a victim of being called, “gay” at Ballard and now this year at Oak Manor. My husband and I have had meetings with his teachers and the principal and is still experiencing the “name-calling”! Instead of the school dealing with the situation at hand, they have my son visit the “Behavior Specialist”. These kids that bully my son see my son with the Behavior Specialist and automatically think that he has problems. I really feel that the kids bullying my son should be the ones visiting the Behavior Specialist as the school has a list of the kids involved in the name-calling. It is a shame that my son is inhibited by these kids and does not want to attend school functions, for example, their class trip to Bear Lake or even sing a solo for his choir concert as he is in “fear” of being ridiculed by his peers. I am in hopes that my son will grow out of this intimidation as he goes into his junior/high school years and will have the courage to sing a solo someday and knock their “socks” off!!

  • Ms

    Christy290 Are you sure that the statement:

    “We had received no parent complaints on bullying all year long until just recently,” Asmus said is not pertaining to the incident with the boys that was being discribed in the previous paragraph?!

    I have 2 children at Howard-Ellis, and am a VERY involved parent, and it is a WONDERFUL school. The teachers, staff, administrators are excellent and caring! The entire thing started with a mother who has blown this situation completely out of proportion! Bullies are EVERYWHERE! Not only in schools, but in the work place, with your own friends. Howard has many policies, programs etc. to help with bullying. My children have NEVER felt threatened or unsafe at school. And if they have, they know what do when it happens (and they know the consequences if they choose to bully), This information is given EVERY YEAR to EVERY PARENT. If I have a problem, I know that I will have help by going to the teachers, or the principal at Howard. Let me again say. Howard is WONDERFUL! AND — ABC57 is a JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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