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MICHIGAN MESSENGER — Granholm renews call for passage of anti-bullying legislation

April 8, 2010
“The legislation has been hamstrung by groups like the American Family Association of Michigan because of the enumerated, or listed, protected classes. That list includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The AFA claims passage of the legislation would be the first time Michigan law recognized either category as a protected class. That, they say, is part of a broader ‘homosexual agenda.’

…Gary Glenn, president of the AFA-Michigan, also did not delay in attacking the renewed call for action by the governor. ‘Aside from once again using a Christian holiday to promote her homosexual activist allies’ political agenda, the fact is that Jennifer Granholm could have signed a comprehensive all-inclusive anti-bullying bill into law years ago that would have prohibited all bullying against all students for all reasons, period,’ Glenn said in a press release. ‘All she’s had to do — all she has to do now — is exert a little leadership and influence with her own party and political allies, and it would likely pass both houses unanimously.’”

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MICHIGAN MESSENGER
Lansing, Michigan

April 8, 2010

Granholm renews call for passage of anti-bullying legislation
Governor is open on question of enumeration vs. non-enumeration

by Todd A. Heywood

LANSING — Gov. Jennifer Granholm renewed her call for the passage of legislation which would mandate school districts create, implement and enforce policies on student bullying. The move comes on the heels of reports of the suicide of a 12-year-old girl from Michigan’s upper peninsula.

“Here in Michigan and across the nation, suicides among young people who have been subjected to bullying demonstrate the need for anti-bullying legislation,” Granholm said in a Good Friday press release. “Just last month in the Upper Peninsula, a young girl committed suicide. A contributing factor may have been alleged bullying by a classmate. Protecting young people should be and must be our number one concern.”

Granholm has long supported the legislation. She has specifically lobbied for an inclusive law which would enumerate, or list, protected groups. But, while the governor is renewing her calls for the legislation, her office backed off the stand for the comprehensive enumerated legislation.

“The legislation the governor proposed in 2006 enumerated specific reasons for which students may be bullied, but we stand ready to work with the legislature on crafting meaningful legislation that addresses this problem,” said Granholm spokeswoman Tiffany Brown.

That move is important. The legislation has been hamstrung by groups like the American Family Association of Michigan because of the enumerated, or listed, protected classes. That list includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The AFA claims passage of the legislation would be the first time Michigan law recognized either category as a protected class. That, they say, is part of a broader “homosexual agenda.”

In the lame duck session of 2008, in the wee hours of the morning, the Republican controlled Senate almost passed anti-bullying legislation. That compromise legislation stripped the enumerations out of the bill. And while this was done to appease Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt), it was not enough; Cropsey refused to allow the bill to go to the floor for a vote and the bill died.

An attempt by Sen. Glenn Anderson (D-Westland) to attach the legislation as amendment to a bill in 2009 also failed in the Senate.

That compromise bill was approved by the Safe Schools Coalition, of which the Triangle Foundation was a part. When news of the late night backroom compromise broke, Michigan Equality a Lansing-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights political organization, and the Michigan Democratic LGBTA Caucus criticized the deal.

The in-fighting led to a schism. Since then, Triangle Foundation and Michigan Equality have begun a merger, and the new organization, as yet unnamed, supports the compromise legislation, though it would prefer to see the enumerated legislation adopted into law.

There are two bills pending in the state Senate. The first, introduced by Anderson, the Democratic Senator from Westland, includes enumerated protected classes. The second, introduced by Sen. Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks Twp.) does not include enumeration. Both lawmakers say they expect anti-bullying legislation to pass the legislature by the end of the year.

The renewed focus on the legislation by the governor was applauded by advocates.

“Triangle Foundation extends our gratitude to Gov. Granholm and we are encouraged by her renewed call for the adoption of safe schools legislation in Michigan,” said Alicia Skillman, executive director of the Detroit based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group. “We have lost too many children to bullying. It is our hope that the legislators will take notice and acknowledge that Michigan needs to take this crucial step to protect all students in Michigan. We would welcome the opportunity to work with school districts to assist with this much needed change.”

“I personally thank Gov. Granholm for bringing this to our legislators and communities attention,” said Kevin Epling, co-director of BullyPolice USA. The legislation, if passed, will be named after his son, Matt Epling, who committed suicide at 14 after being bullied.

“She is absolutely right that our legislators should act when they return, but will they? We’ve seen nothing but stall tactics of revisions that never materialize (or are so flimsy in content and structure that they wouldn’t pass for a High School government class assignment), demand upon demand for changes (disregarding the co-operative work that has been put into the bill, and bordering on bullying behavior itself) and false promises of support which fall short of what our children need.”

Epling’s cynicism may be on point. While Jelinek’s office has assured Michigan Messenger that meetings have been scheduled — but canceled — to arrange the timing on the anti-bullying legislation, no solid target date for passage has been set. And Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s office is not sounding a note of reconciliation on the issue.

In an interview Monday, Bishop Spokesperson Matt Marsden told the Michigan Information Research Service (MIRS) a subscription only news letter at the capitol, that the renewed focus was “political.”

“This is politically useful for the Governor right now,” said Marsden.

He said the Senate was focused “on other areas.”

And Gary Glenn, president of the AFA Michigan, also did not delay in attacking the renewed call for action by the governor.

“Aside from once again using a Christian holiday to promote her homosexual activist allies’ political agenda, the fact is that Jennifer Granholm could have signed a comprehensive all-inclusive anti-bullying bill into law years ago that would have prohibited all bullying against all students for all reasons, period,” Glenn said in a press release. “All she’s had to do — all she has to do now — is exert a little leadership and influence with her own party and political allies, and it would likely pass both houses unanimously.”

Glenn failed to mention the failure of the unenumerated legislation in the 2008 lame duck session.
http://michiganmessenger.com/36501/granholm-renews-call-for-passage-of-anti-bullying-legislation
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