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Anti-Bullying Bill Passes State Senate, Draws Criticism

State Democrats and the father of the victim after whom the bill was named have denounced the bill because of the exception for religious beliefs or moral convictions. One senator gave an impassioned speech against the bill. What do you think?

The state Senate yesterday passed a new bill that would require school districts to implement anti-bullying policies. But the bill is drawing criticism from Democrats and the father of the victim after whom the bill was named.

The critics say the bill creates a special exception for bullies who have "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction," as well as neglecting to protect against bullying by students based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a story by the Huffington Post.

Known as Matt's Safe School Law, the bill effectively bans harassment in schools and requires every district to have an anti-bullying policy. The law was inspired by Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who committed suicide shortly after an anti-gay hazing incident.

One Michigan Democrat, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, gave a speech harshly criticizing the passage of the bill, saying it creates a blueprint for bullying rather than preventing it.

"You may be able to pat yourselves on the back today and say that you did something, but in actuality you are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying," said Senator Gretchen Whitmer. "As passed today, bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it."

Matt Epling's father, Kevin Epling, was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying of the bill, "This is just unconscionable. This is government-sanctioned bigotry."

GOP proponents, however, said the billl is on the right track to protect Michigan kids. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the bill's sponsor, said the intent of the bill is to get each district to write an anti-bullying policy within six months, according to The Detroit News.

One commenter on the Trenton Facebook page, Jema McCardell said: "Bullying is wrong, period. But I wonder if the wording was added to avoid simple statement of one's beliefs such as "I believe that homosexuality is against the will of God" to be prosecutable. To me, that is not bullying. USING that belief to harass someone, that is bullying and completely against the teachings of Christ."

What do you think of the bill as it was passed by the state Senate? Should lawmakers go further to outline specifics to protect kids from bullying in school, or does the legislation do enough as it is? Should a religious belief or moral conviction be an exception to bullying?

Rob Kirby November 11, 2011 at 04:39 PM
The funny part school districts have had harassment policies for years. Look at your student code of conduct. if the law hasnt gone far enough then maybe the local governments can fix that with policies or ordinances that can cover it. Contact your local government entities for suppoort.
Chris K November 11, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Excellent point!
LMJ November 11, 2011 at 07:15 PM
This is an extremely complex issue, and as Erin Maday points out (and perhaps others as well) in the age of Twitter, FB, MySpace etc. , bullying has reached a new level. It's a sad state of affairs when it's to the level that the State has to legislate against the heinous nature of all bullying encompasses- its a moral and societal failure that its even reached this level- if even one person is driven to self harm because of anothers words or actions, we've all failed. Where is the accountability? How do we address it when the kids hatred of a class,race, gender or sexual identity is learned from their elders?Starting by convincing people hat think bullying is somehow o.k, not harmful, or not worth addressing is the first step- it IS wrong, it IS unacceptable, and sadly, it almost always comes from a place of being bullied one's self or feeling inadequate, and "acting out" on another person. This isn't 'feel- good mumbo jumbo'- it's called a sense of humanity, it extends to what we think, what we do, what we teach our kids.
LMJ November 11, 2011 at 07:16 PM
continued....I've always felt that at the heart of bullying is a lack of personal self-esteem and a disconnection from others- this is why, even more than legislation, we need to incorporate more in the way of "Positive Behavioral Support" initiatives into the schools ( which GP already does). The more connected people feel, the less they are inclined to bully- its the internet with its sense of anonyminity that breeds bullying. Accountability has to be a part of the conversation, and if the parents aren't on the same page, its an uphill battle.
debrarai@yahoo.com July 01, 2012 at 01:00 AM
worthless law. and agreed, outlines how to get away with it!..Can't the elected people do better than this? I think so. Please do

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