Professor takes anti-bullying message to heart each week

by Debra Talcott
Legal News

Anyone who attended public schools in the past 80 years remembers the welcome respite from textbook learning that the Friday afternoon arrival of the “Weekly Reader” provided.

Now, in 2013, Cooley Law School Professor Monica Nuckolls is a driving force behind a new twist — the “Weekly Bully Beat Down,” an anti-bullying publication that is distributed to schools in 13 districts across the state. Also available through the Public Libraries of Saginaw, the publication does not shy away from tackling sensitive and potentially controversial subjects, including racial harassment, sexual harassment, religious harassment, homosexuality, and teen suicide.

“My father, the Honorable M.T. Thompson Jr. of the 70th District Saginaw County Court; Dr. Gwendolyn Thompson-McMillon, of Oakland University; and I are the authors of the ‘Weekly Bully Beat Down.’ We also self-publish this weekly reader,” says Professor Nuckolls, who teaches Torts and Equity and Remedies at Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus.
Nuckolls, who was raised in a family that valued community service, feels right at home in Cooley’s culture of giving back to the community. Inspired to address the problem of bullying after the 1999 killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Nuckolls and her co-authors first developed an anti-bullying program called “Bullyproof.” That successful program was then incorporated into their drug education and crime prevention program known as Making Choices and Facing Consequences.

Nuckolls and Judge Thompson were honored with a 2011 Champion of Justice Award from the State Bar of Michigan when the book came out,including work on the Bullyproof program.

“But when the country experienced a rash of school shootings and bully-related suicides from 2002 through 2010, it became increasingly clear that we needed an anti-bullying publication that could reach the three groups that most wanted to put a stop to the bullying: students, teachers, and parents,” says Nuckolls. “We decided that a take-home weekly reader was the best way to reach all three groups; after it is used in the classroom, it can be taken home and shared with the rest of the family,” she explains.
Since bullying could affect students in any school district, the authors would like to see these weekly readers used in every school across the state.

“But we began with the ones closest to home,” says Nuckolls. “Thomas M. Cooley Law School covers the cost of publication for Pontiac High School and Ypsilanti High School students. Cooley – Auburn Hills has had a long-standing relationship with Pontiac High School; over the years we have partnered to offer tutoring services, book drives, and countless other programs to assist at-risk youth.”

In 2010, for example, Cooley sponsored Pontiac students in Project Future, a drug education and crime prevention program that used the authors publications, Making Choices and Facing Consequences: Gangs, Bullies & Violent Crimes, Vol. I and Making Choices and Facing Consequences: Drugs and Alcohol, Vol. II.

“Cooley’s Ann Arbor campus likewise enjoys a great relationship with Ypsilanti High School, where they have collaborated on a number of programs, so it seemed fitting that Pontiac and Ypsilanti students receive complimentary anti-bullying weekly readers,” says Nuckolls.

Jessica McLemore, coordinator of Ypsilanti High School’s Community in Schools program, says she has received positive feedback from district teachers who have implemented the “Weekly Bully Beat Down,”

“The readers address the infamous subject of bullying and its harmful effects on others in a culturally relevant way, while creating dialogue between students and empowering them to confront the harmful, violent behavior caused by bullying,” says McLemore. “In times where funding is limited, it is encouraging and helpful to know that we have more than just community partners, but true friends, supporting our students with much-needed resources. Here at Ypsilanti High School and Ypsilanti New Tech @ Ardis, we are forever grateful for the ‘Weekly Bully Beat Down’ readers provided by ...Cooley Law School.”

Many students in Saginaw Public Schools, Birch Run Schools, Bridgeport-Spaulding Schools, Buena Vista Schools, Carrollton Community Schools, Chesaning Schools, Frankenmuth Schools, Hemlock Schools, Merrill Schools, St. Charles Schools, and Swan Valley Schools also have received copies.

“The publication addresses all of the key topics that people are usually bullied about, including race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation,” explains Nuckolls. “It is designed to focus on the inappropriate and, in some cases, illegal conduct of the bully. Each edition is incredibly effective at delivering the message that it is never acceptable to bully someone and helps identify the many steps that can be taken to stop the bullying. Each edition includes a Parents’ Page, which provides parents with information they can use to help stop and prevent bullying.”

Nuckolls also looks forward to an upcoming (March) field trip she helped organize for 110 Pontiac High School students and six chaperones to see the play Garden of Joy at the Wharton Center in East Lansing. The Wharton Center has agreed to cover the cost of all the tickets and transportation, and also will provide study materials before the play so that students will be informed about the historical time period the play depicts.

“Garden of Joy is about the Harlem Renaissance. The setting is Dec. 31, 1929 at Harlem’s hottest night club, the Garden of Joy. It is an original Wharton Center commissioned work that infuses the writings of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, and W.E.B. DuBois along with the music of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and others,” says Nuckolls.

“Not only does it teach students about music and theatre arts, but it teaches social studies and American history as well.”

In the classroom, Professor Nuckolls puts the emphasis on ethics, civility, professionalism, and reputation. At home, she is a mother who shares with her three sons the legacy of community service she learned from her own parents. As both parent and professional, she recognizes the need to be involved in service that benefits our youth.

“Although it sounds cliché, they really are our future, and it is up to us to make sure they develop into civic-minded, responsible adults who help their communities flourish.”
As a child, Nuckolls watched her parents devote their lives to the church and spend countless hours giving back to the community. Her own appreciation for community service developed early and has remained a significant part of her life.

“I was raised on the belief that every individual is born with a responsibility to help those around them. This is why creating the ‘Weekly Bully Beat Down’ with my father has been such a wonderful experience for me.”