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Topics In the News
 
Michigan Senate Passes "A Republican License to Bully" Bill
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/03/11
Last updated on: 11/16/11
 
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Senator Gretchen Whitmer condemns "gutted" anti-bullying law on the floor of the Michigan State Senate.

In response to the epidemic of bullying in public schools the Michigan Senate passed an anti-bullying bill on November 2, 2011 over strong objections from Democrats and even the father of the bullying victim after whom the bill is named. A Democratic senator called the bill "A Republican license to bully."

The bill ironically known as "Matt's Safe School Law" passed 26-11 with all Democrats voting against it. The legislation is named for Matt Eppling, an East Lansing 14-year-old who committed suicide after being bullied by classmates in 2002.

The law includes a section that Democrats fear will be used to justify harassment of gay, lesbian, or transgender students by claiming that their bullying is motivated by religious beliefs.

Kevin Eppling, the father of Matt Eppling, issued a statement in which he said, "I am ashamed that this could be Michigan's bill on anti-bullying when in fact it is a 'bullying is OK in Michigan law.'"

Attempts by Democrats to attach an amendment to enumerate characteristics, including race, gender, and sexual orientation, that are off-limits for bullying were unsuccessful.

Michigan is one of three states that have not enacted anti-bullying legislation. According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, at least 10 Michiganders have committed suicide in the past decade due to bullying.

In an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate, Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing told her Republican colleagues, "Here today you claim to be protecting kids, and you're actually putting them in more danger. There are at least 10 Michigan children in the past decade whose deaths are directly attributable to bullying. . . . Had this bill that you're going to pass today been law in effect while they were alive, how many of their deaths would have been prevented? ZERO!"

She added: "You are papering over the problem that is a reality faced by hundreds of kids in Michigan schools every day. In fact not only does this not protect kids who are bullied. It further endangers them by legitimizing excuses for tormenting a student. And the saddest and sickest irony of this whole thing is that it's called 'Matt's Safe School Law'. And after the way that you've gutted it, it wouldn't have done a damn thing to save Matt!"

"This is worse than doing nothing! It's a Republican license to bully."

 
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