Michigan: Controversial Anti-Bullying Law to be Approved

After lawmakers approved a new version of the Michigan anti-bullying bill that has had its controversial clause that allowed religious-based verbal harassment removed, Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign, writes Tim Martin at the Washington Examiner.

The proposal has been on the table for over a decade, and having already been passed by the House many were waiting for this inevitable step. On Tuesday it finally passed the Senate 35-2 and can now go to Snyder, who has been advocating for the law and is widely expected to sign it.

Despite Michigan being one of the last states to action a law requiring anti-bullying policies in schools, it hasn’t been clear sailing. Previous drafts have seen some conservatives worried it was an effort by gay rights advocates to carve out special protections for homosexuals, while Democrats saw it as offering a blueprint for getting away with bullying in schools.

But after some hefty give-and-take, lawmakers have finally agreed on a bill that requires policies saying “all pupils are protected” under the measures and bullying is prohibited “without regard to its subject matter” or motivation.

Kevin Epling, whose 14-year-old son killed himself in 2002, said despite not being pefect, measure is an important step to crack down on bullying in schools. The bill will be named after his son – “Matt’s Safe School Law.”

“It sets us in the right direction, it gets everybody on the same page,” said Epling, who now makes anti-bullying presentations at Michigan high schools.

“It sends a message across the state that bullying is not to be tolerated in any form.”

Despite passing, there are still some critics of the bill. Some lawmakers believe it isn’t tough enough or go far enough to be effective. Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, said the measure “falls far short” of what should be done to protect students, citing further calls for tougher reporting requirements, protections against cyberbullying and more detailed lists of reasons why students can’t be bullied – such as sexual orientation, race and weight.

Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, also voted against the bill. Green said that despite supporting policies that prohibit bullying, he wants more local control over schools and doesn’t agree  that the state should be dictating policy.