Mich. Antibullying Bill Likely to Change
BY Trudy Ring
November 08 2011 5:03 PM ET
Michigan legislators are likely to remove controversial language from an antibullying bill that appears to permit bullying if it arises from “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” the Detroit Free Press reports.
The state Senate last week approved the bill in a vote that went along party lines, Republicans for, Democrats against, but House Republican leaders appear amenable to a compromise on the divisive wording, according to the paper.
The measure would require school districts to adopt antibullying policies, but says these policies would not be construed to prohibit “a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.” The Free Press notes, “The intent was that if a child were to stand up in a class and say they don’t believe in homosexuality, for instance, that child would not face discipline.”
There has been much criticism of the religion-related language from legislators and the public, and House speaker Jase Bolger (pictured), a Republican, would be agreeable to a compromise that would protect all students, said his spokesman, Ari Adler.
“There is concern that the language would provide an excuse for bullying,” Adler told the Free Press. “And as far as he’s concerned, there is no excuse.”
Democratic Senate leader Gretchen Whitmer, a strong critic of the bill, said any compromise must “say that no child or adult can harass, torment, or threaten a pupil in any of our schools.” She is scheduled to discuss the legislation on tonight’s Anderson Cooper 360.
Meanwhile, the bill’s author, Republican senator Rick Jones, said he welcomes the idea of a compromise but believes the religious wording has been misinterpreted. “I think people are using it for political purposes,” he said.
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