Michigan Senate Republicans have failed Michigan’s children by giving students a new “license to bully.” Politics came first and our children came last.
On November 2, the Michigan Senate passed Senate Bill 137 by a vote of 26-11. In a stunning show of disrespect for our students, the bill allows a student to bully based on religious beliefs. This provision was added a half-hour before the vote by right-wing Republicans:
“This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.”
This week's debate and vote in Lansing clearly signals that right-wing conservatives are unwilling to do what's right for our state. Senator Gretchen Whitmer summed up the action in her floor speech to the majority:
"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. Your exceptions have swallowed the rule. As passed today, bullying kids is OK if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it."
This action is outrageous and an embarrassment for Michigan. Do you want a state government that keeps our kids safe or one that condones religious hate speech? We must make our voices heard and demand a law that doesn’t have special exceptions, does enumerate the reasons that students are most often targeted, and adds reporting requirements.
The law will now be sent to the Michigan House of Representatives for consideration. Send a message to your House Representative and tell them to fix this awful bill!
What religious beliefs justify bullying and harassment?
Senate Republicans put partisan politics first by allowing students to victimize others and by excluding cyber-bullying, one of the most prevalent behaviors our students face today. They have effectively created a license to bully instead of taking action to keep our kids safe. The exemption in SB 137 allows a new way for students and staff to bully for any reason.
Please fight for a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that eliminates outrageous exemptions, enumerates the reasons that students are most often targeted, and adds reporting requirements.
Students in schools with comprehensive policies report less bullying and harassment, are more likely to report feeling safe at school, and are three times less likely to skip a class because they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Research shows that states without enumeration do not see a reduction in bullying and harassment in schools.
Protect Michigan students by eliminating the license to bully and adding enumeration and reporting requirements to any bill that seeks to end bullying.