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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Anti-bullying plan delayed by competing interests

May 22, 2010
Brenda High, founder of BullyPolice.org, a prominent national anti-bullying organization, Thursday called and e-mailed to inform us that she agrees with AFA-Michigan’s position that lawmakers should remove from state anti-bullying legislation the thought-crime language demanded by homosexual activists that would define bullying as “motivated by animus or by (a student’s) actual or perceived characteristic(s).”

If all bullying against all students for all reasons is prohibited, what difference does it make what a bully was thinking, feeling, or motivated by in any particular instance of bullying?

Please read today’s Associated Press story below, then please contact your state senator — http://senate.michigan.gov/SenatorInfo/find-your-senator.htm — and urge him to join AFA-Michigan and BullyPolice.org in opposing the thought-crime language in House Bill 4580.

Thanks as always for your support!
Glenn's signature

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“Michigan’s (anti-bullying) legislation remains unfinished, tangled in a web of competing interests — including both sides of the gay rights debate…partly because of a single line in the three-page bill that some interpret as opening the door for gay rights activists to try and carve out special protections. The bill…says that bullying includes but is not limited to conduct that is ‘reasonably perceived to be motivated by animus or by an actual or perceived characteristic.’ Even anti-bullying groups have internal disagreements over whether that line should be included in the legislation.

…Alicia Skillman of (the homosexual activist group) Equality Michigan said the legislation’s goal is to protect all Michigan students from bullying. If that’s the case, conservatives say, lawmakers should drop the line about animus and perceived characteristics. ‘We’ve said from the beginning we will not oppose a bill that simply prohibits all bullying against all students for all reasons,” said Gary Glenn, president of the Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan.”

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CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Chicago, Illinois
May 22, 2010

Anti-bullying plan delayed by competing interests

by Tim Martin, The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. — Since Kevin Epling’s 14-year-old son killed himself after a hazing incident, he has been trying to get schools to take bullying more seriously.

As part of that effort, he’s pushing Michigan lawmakers to pass a law requiring schools to have anti-bullying policies. While legislation has been introduced often in the past decade, it’s still not law — frustrating Epling and others who say it’s needed to send a strong message about changing a culture that too often permits students to harass each other.

Forty-three states have adopted anti-bullying laws, many of them in the past decade. But Michigan’s legislation remains unfinished, tangled in a web of competing interests — including both sides of the gay rights debate and politicians with both liberal and conservative leanings.

“Our biggest problem with anti-bullying in our schools is not our kids. It’s our adults,” said Epling, an East Lansing resident and a co-director of BullyPolice USA. “Our biggest problem is our adults who don’t want to tackle this issue because it’s hard work.”

Michigan’s law would be named after Matt Epling, who died in 2002.

The Democrat-run state House passed a version of the anti-bullying bill earlier this month by a 76-29 vote, the broadest support yet for the legislation. A similar bill has been introduced in the Republican-led state Senate, with the backing of some GOP members.

But the measure also has opposition in the Senate and its future is uncertain — partly because of a single line in the three-page bill that some interpret as opening the door for gay rights activists to try and carve out special protections.

The bill defines bullying or harassment as abuse of one student by another in any form. It also says that bullying includes but is not limited to conduct that is “reasonably perceived to be motivated by animus or by an actual or perceived characteristic.”

Even anti-bullying groups have internal disagreements over whether that line should be included in the legislation.

Gay rights groups see the latest Michigan proposal as a compromise. Some previous Michigan anti-bullying proposals had included language to prohibit harassment of students with specific characteristics — including sexual orientation, weight, religion and race.

That language has been dropped in the current version, despite the objections of some Democrats.

Equality Michigan, a gay rights group, would prefer stronger language but supports the House-passed version with the “perceived characteristic” wording. The bill would allow local school districts to craft their own policies, and gay rights groups — along with other organizations and parents — could work at the local level to get language in those policies more specifically addressing their concerns.

Alicia Skillman of Equality Michigan said the legislation’s goal is to protect all Michigan students from bullying.

If that’s the case, conservatives say, lawmakers should drop the line about animus and perceived characteristics.

“We’ve said from the beginning we will not oppose a bill that simply prohibits all bullying against all students for all reasons,” said Gary Glenn, president of the Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan.

Republican Sen. Alan Cropsey of DeWitt said he has concerns about the “perceived characteristic” language, but said that’s not his primary problem with the bill. He questions whether a state mandate, as it’s now proposed, would make any difference in the fight against bullying.

Parents in states with anti-bullying laws still have concerns that schools don’t do enough to address harassment. Critics of the legislation say most Michigan school districts already have some sort of policy related to bullying, some following a model policy established by the State Board of Education in 2006.

The House-passed bill mandates policies but lacks requirements for what they must contain. The bill “encourages” schools to include provisions for investigating reports of bullying, along with education and intervention measures.

“Passing a piece of paper and calling it a law does not do anything,” Cropsey said.

Other lawmakers have said the bills would be another unfunded mandate for cash-strapped schools, forcing them to come up with policies and investigate bullying complaints with no additional money for the work. Some say the state should not meddle in a situation best handled by local schools.

Supporters say lawmakers should stop making excuses and pass a law that would provide a renewed emphasis on anti-bullying policies in schools.

“I’d like to see a little more in it,” said Democratic Rep. Pam Byrnes of Washtenaw County’s Lyndon Township, sponsor of the House legislation. “But there are too many different competing interests here, so we have to move something forward. We are one of seven states without legislation, and it’s embarrassing.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-mi-schoolbullying,0,2706701.story

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LENGTHY EFFORT: Michigan lawmakers have introduced bills to mandate anti-bullying policies in public schools for the better part of a decade, but none of them has become law. Most states already have similar laws.

STATUS REPORT: Anti-bullying legislation passed the Democrat-run state House this month. It’s pending in the Republican-run Senate with an uncertain future.

PRO AND CON: Supporters say Michigan needs the law to force schools to do more to combat bullying of students. Some opponents say the bill won’t be effective. Others argue it’s an attempt by gay rights activists and others to carve out special protections.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-mi-schoolbullying-su,0,5420212.story
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