GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Michigan anti-bullying legislation advocates disagree over language in stalled bill
|“A (bullying) bill calling itself ‘Mattâ€™s Safe School Law’ awaits a vote in the Senate. It requires public school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies and submit them to the state. … It does not include language, as does another proposed bill, that specifies a studentâ€™s real or perceived race, religion and sexual orientation in its definition of bullying. The American Family Association (of Michigan) has objected to that language as ‘a Trojan horse for homosexual activistsâ€™ political agenda.’â€
GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Michigan anti-bullying legislation advocates
by Charley Honey
Those concerned about bullying agree schools need policies to discourage it. What they canâ€™t agree on is what those policies should say.
State legislation requiring public schools to have such policies has yet to be adopted in Lansing after 10 years of pushing by advocates. The State Board of Education in 2001 asked districts to adopt policies and issued a model policy in 2006. Michigan is one of only five states without such laws, Gov. Rick Snyder pointed out in urging passage of a bill.
â€œOne of the reasons this billâ€™s been stalled for so long is we have adults saying â€˜This is what we want,â€™ not â€˜This is what our kids need,â€™â€ said Kevin Epling, co-director of Bully Police USA, whose son, Matt, committed suicide in 2002.
A bill calling itself â€œMattâ€™s Safe School Lawâ€ awaits a vote in the Senate. It requires public school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies and submit them to the state. It does not apply to private schools.
Epling calls it a â€œmuch reduced versionâ€ of the originally proposed Mattâ€™s law and hopes it is strengthened. It does not include language, as does another proposed bill, that specifies a studentâ€™s real or perceived race, religion and sexual orientation in its definition of bullying.
The American Family Association has objected to that language as â€œa Trojan horse for homosexual activistsâ€™ political agenda.â€
â€œI think a child shouldnâ€™t be bullied, whether they be gay or obese or have red hair,â€ said Jones, whose district includes Barry and Allegan counties. â€œIf we start having enumerations in there, we could be back every six months putting in a new classification.â€
Religious schools keep pace
Local Christian and Catholic schools have their own policies but are keeping an eye on the state legislation.
â€œOur Student Dignity Policy has been adequate for us in the past, but with a new policy coming from the state, we should
The Catholic secondary schoolsâ€™ policy prohibits sexual and racial harassment, including threats, name-calling and posting â€œharmful information on the Internet.â€
â€œThe Gospel doesnâ€™t just call us to tolerance of one another, it calls us to love one another,â€ Faber said. â€œThatâ€™s what weâ€™re bringing to students.â€
The Grand Rapids Christian Schools board Monday is slated to approve revisions to its policy on bullying. The policy includes consequences but also ways to reconcile those who bully back into the school community, Superintendent Tom DeJonge said.
â€œWe talk about how students are to be treated in love, whether theyâ€™re the guilty party or not,â€ DeJonge said, â€œand that, in Christ, we provide supports and resources for those that have been harmed as well as those doing the harming.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t mean thereâ€™s not punishment, but itâ€™s also about rebuilding a community thatâ€™s been broken.â€