Michigan Schools Chief Lashes Out at Senate Bullying Bill

Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction, Mike Flanagan, has spoken out against the state Senate’s version of a measure calling for all public schools to adopt anti-bullying policies, writes the Associated Press at MLive.com.

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”.

The bill, which was backed by the Republicans in the Senate, would require that schools adopt policies aimed at cracking down on bullying and harassment of students. But the legislation contradicts this, saying that it “does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” of a student or school employee.

Senate Democrat critics say that the language of the bill appears to offer a blueprint for getting away with bullying in schools.

As the bill heads to the House for consideration, a number of people in Michigan echo the sentiments of Senate critics, saying that it isn’t really against bullying, but is instead a license to bully, reports News Channel 3 at WWMT.com.

Some are angry that the bill doesn’t spell out the reasons why kids shouldn’t be bullied, and doesn’t seem to say enough about cyber-bullying.

Portage Public Schools is reviewing the legislation. That policy does spell out reasons that kids can’t be bullied. Vance calls the district’s stance on bullying very aggressive.

“No matter what the legislation says, or if there are inadequacies in the legislation, we’re already very seriously addressing all of this,” said Tom Vance, Community Relations Manager for Portage schools, saying that the district has had an anti-bullying policy since 1994.

“Though we haven’t reviewed it all yet, we’re comfortable we’re doing the kinds of things we need to be doing.”

Republicans passed the bill along party lines. Supporters say that while it’s not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction, writes News Channel 3. They say cyber-bullying laws in other states have run into constitutional issues.

Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R) told News Channel 3 that the bill is designed to protect all kids, not just those whose bullying fits a list.