In early November, Katy Butler and Carson Borbely, two bullied Michigan students, started a petition urging the Michigan legislature to stop the dangerous “license to bully” bill that had passed in the Michigan state senate. As the campaign grew and this controversial bill garnered national attention, the Michigan state house was forced to pass a new anti-bullying bill that lacked an exemption for religious and moral bullying.
On Tuesday, November 29, the Michigan state senate passed the Michigan state house's version of the anti-bullying bill -- which lacked the "license to bully" language -- after more than 50,000 people joined Katy and Carson's popular petition campaign on Change.org.
Unfortunately, the bill also lacked enumeration of the reasons why students are bullied and requirements for schools to report back on how well they're protecting kids -- two provisions that Butler and Borbely assert are necessary to actually protect Michigan students from bullying.
“As students who have been bullied in the past, we know what we need to be protected,” said Butler, a 16-year-old junior at Greenhills High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “While we’re disappointed that the legislature decided to do what was easy instead of doing what was right, Carson and I couldn’t be more proud. This campaign has been about providing a voice for students who suffer every day at school, but haven’t had the opportunity to speak out."
"Our petition helped stop a dangerous bill from becoming law," said Butler. "Next time, we’ll help pass a bill that actually protects students.”
Within a few short weeks, over 50,000 people joined Butler’s and Borbely’s campaign on Change.org, which received coverage from CBS, Yahoo! News, the Detroit News, Michigan Public Radio, and other major news outlets.
It's tough being a student when bullies are allowed to physically and verbally hurt you at school. Unfortunately, because of a dangerous new bill passed by the Michigan State Senate, it's only going to get worse.
On November 2, minutes before voting to pass a new bullying bill, the Michigan State Senate added special language that provides a blueprint for bullies. According to this language, as long as the bullying is done because of "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” then it's ok.
As students, we deserve better.
I was in 7th grade putting my books in my locker when a few guys game up behind me. They called me a faggot and a dyke and asked me why I even bothered to show my face at school because no one liked me. I ignored them because I was scared of what else they might say and who else they might tell if I stood up to them. I went to shut my locker when an 8th grader pushed me against the wall. I didn’t know what to do so I stood there, alone and afraid. One of his friends slammed my locker shut on my hand breaking my fourth finger. I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing. When I got home I lied to my parents about what happened to my finger because I didn’t want them to tell the school. I was afraid the school would do nothing accept call me out in front of everyone.
My name is Katy Butler, I am now a junior at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor Michigan and I am lesbian. For me, 7th grade was four years ago and writing about that event, even thinking about it, I still tear up. Stopping the "License to Bully" bill and passing real anti-bullying legislation is so important to me because I don’t want anyone else to have to have such strong, painful memories. Being bullied because of something I couldn’t change hurt, but it hurt even more that my school did not do anything about something that they could change.
My story is not unique. Students all across Michigan have stories just like mine. Students like my friend Carson Borbely, who is currently in eighth grade:
"A few weeks ago in class, I brushed a friend's hair away from her face. A loud voice sharply interrupted, 'Don't touch her. Trannies carry diseases.' The teacher didn't do anything. That was the fourth incident in her class that I had been harassed by the same boy. Nothing was done. The only reprimand he got was a sharp calling of his name. The teacher asked him passively to stop. He continued."
Carson and I are speaking out for all those students who suffer every day at school. We're speaking out because we deserve a bill that will actually protect us at school, not make it more dangerous, or give bullies a free pass. People keep telling us youth “It Gets Better”. Well it can’t get better if you don’t make it better. I’m doing my part to help, please do yours.
Please stand with students across the state and sign our petition demanding that the Michigan State Legislature pass a real anti-bullying bill. One that doesn't have special exceptions, but does list the reasons students are bullied most often, and does add reporting requirements. A bill that actually protects students.
Katy Butler, Michigan high school student
Carson Borbely, Michigan junior high school student