Friday, November 4, 2011

Michigan Law Allows Morality-Driven Bullying

In the wake of an inspiring and moving speech by our Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden about the serious need for creating safer schools, we were shocked and angered to hear that Michigan lawmakers just passed an anti-bullying law with a secret provision that will harm more than help.


“Matt’s Safe School Law” was named in honor of Matt Epling who died by suicide after facing constant bullying from his classmates. And despite harsh objections from Kevin Epling, Matt’s father, “Matt’s Law” passed the Senate floor without protections for specific characteristics (like race, gender, or sexual orientation), without addressing cyber-bullying, and with a provision which actually allows bullying if the perpetrator cites religious or moral reasons for doing so. “I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying when in fact it is a ‘Bullying is O.K. in Michigan Law,” said Epling. “I am ashamed of this law.”

Sen. Rick Jones, the bill’s sponsor, said the revised  bill was never supposed to allow the bullying of LGBT students: “I don’t believe for one minute that is the intention of this legislation…certainly a child should not be allowed to go up to another child and say he’s going to hell.” And yet, this legislation specifically allows for this kind of behavior—as long as the student, teacher, or faculty claims it was motivated by moral beliefs.

“Matt’s Law” is a major step in the wrong direction at the state level. As Dr. Biden said earlier today, “We know the devastating price of the failure to confront hostile school climates…together we all need to stand up and do our part to keep all of our kids safe, and give them the love, support and acceptance they need….We must ensure that our classrooms are safer for all students to learn, grow and thrive.” 

Take Action: Michigan’s so-called anti-bullying law is unacceptable. If you are a Michigan resident, contact your Senators and state house representatives to tell them about the major problems within “Matt’s Law,” and urge them to take a stand against this version of the bill. On a federal level, we must continue to fight for SSIA (H.R. 1648/ S.506) and SNDA (H.R. 998/ S.555) by contacting our Senators and Representatives. More about these federal anti-bullying laws can be found at PFLAG Nation’s website.

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