Last week, Michigan passed anti-bullying legislation. Apparently, however, it’s got some serious issues. Most notably, it still allows for bullying… But, not just any bullying. In the defense of our Republican legislators, it’s not as though they’re saying that all bullying is justified – just that done by people of faith. In their opinion, it would seem, some people are bullied for good reason. Here’s more from Jezebel:
…At the last minute, Republicans inserted a line into the legislation that exempts anyone who makes a comment based on their religious beliefs. Republicans say they’re against seeing children get taunted, but felt it was important to protect the right to tell a gay kid that they’re going to rot in hell.
Michigan lawmakers have been battling for years over enacting anti-bullying legislation, and the Detroit News reports that last week the state senate finally let the law pass after adding this paragraph:
“This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under Article 1 of the state Constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteers, or a pupil’s parent or guardian. This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.”
The bill passed 26-11 with every Democrat voting against it. The legislation is named “Matt’s Safe School Law,” and even the father of the boy its named for says the exemption is wrong. Kevin Epling, whose 14-year-old son killed himself in 2002 after being harassed by bullies, said he’s “ashamed” of the bill, adding that the law:
“Would basically say it is okay to bully or to ignore instances of bullying based on your own religious beliefs and/or moral convictions, which is contrary to the rest of the bill and it is definitely contrary to what I’ve been telling students, to step in and step up when they see this taking place in their school. As a society, we need to decrease the bystander effect, those who sit idly by and watch as things happen”…
One wonders what the people outside of Michigan must think of us.
update: A clarification from Richard Murphy.
(T)his statement is inaccurate:
“Last week, Michigan passed anti-bullying legislation.”
Untrue. The Michigan SENATE passed their version of an anti-bullying bill, after inserting the “license to bully” language in question. However, it has not yet passed the House, nor been signed by the Governor.
The outcry against the Senate’s bill so far has done some good, and has House Republicans backing away as fast as they can. From today’s MIRS Capitol news brief:
As MIRS first reported on Friday, key House Republicans, including House Speaker Jase BOLGER (R-Marshall), House Education Chair Paul SCOTT (R-Grand Blanc) and Rep. Phil POTVIN (R-Cadillac), sponsor of the House anti-bullying bill, distanced themselves from the language in SB 0137 (See “Potvin: My Bullying Bill Won’t Include Religious Exemption,” 11/4/11).
Today, Bolger spokesman Ari ADLER stressed to MIRS that the Speaker does not believe in enumerating characteristics in the bill, something for which Democrats have pushed, but he also “doesn’t believe in going
to the other extreme and giving an excuse for bullying.” Adler said there are “passionate people on all sides of the issue.”
And, from the referenced piece:
Rep. Phil POTVIN (R-Cadillac) told MIRS today that the new version of his anti-bullying bill would not include an exemption on moral and religious grounds as the Senate version passed this week did. “Absolutely not,” Potvin said today. “Why should it? We’re talking about everyone.”
Potvin has sponsored HB 4163, which is in the House Education Committee, although Potvin is not on the panel. He said he was hopeful the legislation might be taken up before the hunting break, although he noted House Education Committee Chair Paul SCOTT (R-Grand Blanc) is busy with the recall election Tuesday.
Note that Ypsilanti’s own Representative David Rutledge sits on the House Education Committee, which will be deliberating the House version of this bill. He’s in the minority, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to let him know his district is fired up over the issue.