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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Michigan anti-bullying legislation advocates disagree over language in stalled bill

June 19, 2011
“A (bullying) bill calling itself ‘Matt’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 student’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 activists’ political agenda.’”

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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 18, 2011

Michigan anti-bullying legislation advocates
disagree over language in stalled bill

by Charley Honey

Those concerned about bullying agree schools need policies to discourage it. What they can’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.

“One of the reasons this bill’s been stalled for so long is we have adults saying ‘This is what we want,’ not ‘This is what our kids need,’” said Kevin Epling, co-director of Bully Police USA, whose son, Matt, committed suicide in 2002.

A bill calling itself “Matt’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 apply to private schools.

Epling calls it a “much reduced version” of the originally proposed Matt’s law and hopes it is strengthened. It does not include language, as does another proposed bill, that specifies a student’s real or perceived race, religion and sexual orientation in its definition of bullying.

The American Family Association has objected to that language as “a Trojan horse for homosexual activists’ political agenda.”
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the bill’s sponsor, says such “enumeration” language isn’t needed.

“I think a child shouldn’t be bullied, whether they be gay or obese or have red hair,” said Jones, whose district includes Barry and Allegan counties. “If we start having enumerations in there, we could be back every six months putting in a new classification.”

Religious schools keep pace

Local Christian and Catholic schools have their own policies but are keeping an eye on the state legislation.

“Our Student Dignity Policy has been adequate for us in the past, but with a new policy coming from the state, we should
probably take a look at that,” said Dave Faber, superintendent of Catholic schools.

The Catholic secondary schools’ policy prohibits sexual and racial harassment, including threats, name-calling and posting “harmful information on the Internet.”

“The Gospel doesn’t just call us to tolerance of one another, it calls us to love one another,” Faber said. “That’s what we’re bringing to students.”

Policy revision

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.

“We talk about how students are to be treated in love, whether they’re the guilty party or not,” DeJonge said, “and that, in Christ, we provide supports and resources for those that have been harmed as well as those doing the harming.

“It doesn’t mean there’s not punishment, but it’s also about rebuilding a community that’s been broken.”

http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/06/michigan_anti-bullying_legisla.html
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