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."
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?