Michigan Anti-Bullying Bill May Change Amid Uproar

Controversial language in an anti-bullying bill approved by the Michigan Senate that was seen as actually allowing bullying under certain circumstances may now be changed, writes Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction, Mike Flanagan, spoke out against the state Senate’s version of a measure calling for all public schools to adopt anti-bullying policies, as reported at Education News.

Commenting on the new language that appears to allow verbal bullying on religious or moral grounds, Flanagan said in a statement that the bill is a “joke”.

Senate Republicans inserted language that says the bill “does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held belief or moral conviction” of a student or school worker.  The Detroit Free Press reported that Republican leaders in the Michigan House are now working out a way to end the controversy

The inserted language was seen by many as allowing bullies to prey on other students. Students who are gay, lesbian or transgender are particularly vulnerable under the new bill. It also insinuated that it is right to watch someone be bullied who you think might deserve it without trying to stop it.

Flanagan issued a statement that said in part:

“There should never be an excuse or reason or justification for anyone to bully, intimidate, or harass a student. I cannot imagine any real moral conviction or religious teaching that says it is acceptable to inflict pain, humiliation, and suffering on another person, especially a child.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether the changes that House Republicans come up with will satisfy Democrats, writes Strauss.

Critics say they not only want the inserted language dropped but additional passages added that bar bullying for specific reasons, including sexual orientation, the Free Press reported.

Government statistics show that at least a third of students ages 12 to 18 report being bullied during the school year. Most states have laws that make bullying illegal, but enforcement is scant.