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LANSING STATE JOURNAL — Anti-Bullying Bills Advocates 'Optimistic' at Capitol Rally

March 27, 2008

“Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, which is opposed to the measures, said he doesn’t think all 20 of (the bill’s) co-sponsors would vote for the bill if it came to the Senate floor… Much of the controversy regarding the bills hinges on a requirement that, while local school districts would have to have some form of anti-bullying policy, they would be encouraged to adopt a model policy drafted by the state Department of Education (that)…includes protections for students bullied because of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Glenn called that provision a ruse to establish ‘special “protected class” status based on homosexual behavior and cross-dressing.’ Advocates were dealt another blow Wednesday when Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, who had originally signed on as a co-sponsor for the bill, said he would not vote for it should it reach the Senate floor.”


LANSING STATE JOURNAL
Lansing, Michigan
March 27, 2008

Anti-bullying bills advocates
“optimistic” at Capitol rally

“Matt’s Safe School Law” stalls

by Derek Wallbank

Concerns over whether anti-bullying legislation would give homosexual and transgendered students protected status appear to have stalled the measure in the state Senate.

The legislation is “Matt’s Safe School Law,” a two-bill package that would require local schools to adopt rules prohibiting bullying.

The bills are named after Matt Epling, an East Lansing teenager who killed himself in 2002 after a school hazing incident.

The bills passed the House in March 2007 and have languished in the Senate Education Committee ever since.

Rallying for support

On Wednesday, Matt’s father, Kevin Epling, and about 150 other anti-bullying activists gathered in the Capitol rotunda to rally support for the law.

“I’m optimistic,” Epling said of the bills’ chances. “I have to be optimistic or I wouldn’t be doing this.”

Twenty of 36 senators have co-sponsored the legislation, enough to pass it by majority vote.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, which is opposed to the measures, said he doesn’t think all 20 of those co-sponsors would vote for the bill if it came to the Senate floor, but said his group isn’t taking any chances.

“The easiest way to make sure this doesn’t pass is to make sure it doesn’t come up for a vote,” Glenn said.

Similar bills have been offered since 1999, though none have been signed into law.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the governor will sign the bill into law if it passes the Senate.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said the bill would be especially useful because it would get communities talking about bullying.

“First of all, it gets us out of denial to pretend this isn’t a problem. It is,” Flanagan said.

Committee Chair Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, could not be reached for comment.

Model policy

Much of the controversy regarding the bills hinges on a requirement that, while local school districts would have to have some form of anti-bullying policy, they would be encouraged to adopt a model policy drafted by the state Department of Education.

That policy already exists and it includes protections for students bullied because of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Glenn called that provision a ruse to establish “special ‘protected class’ status based on homosexual behavior and cross-dressing.”

Advocates were dealt another blow Wednesday when Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, who had originally signed on as a co-sponsor for the bill, said he would not vote for it should it reach the Senate floor.

“I want to stop bullying, but I don’t want a laundry list,” Garcia said of the state’s list of protected students.
“Rather than be specific about it, let’s just focus on bullied persons.”

Work will continue

Despite the setback, advocates said they would continue pressing the issue.

“I was kind of told to go home back in 2003,” Epling said, adding that he hopes a bullying bill will pass this year.

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080327/NEWS04/803270346/1005/news

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