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‘License to bully’ legislation’s passage resulting in backlash

Thursday saw a flurry activity over the Republican-controlled Senate’s passage of what critics are calling ‘license to bully’ legislation on Wednesday morning.

The legislation provides an exception to bullying if the bullying is based on “moral convictions.”

Equality Michigan, a statewide advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, launched a petition targeting the state House leadership. The letter sent to lawmakers reads, in part:

“Please fight for a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that eliminates outrageous exemptions, enumerates the reasons that students are most often targeted, and adds reporting requirements.”

Another individual has also started a petition drive targeting Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder on the issue.

In addition, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer’s (D-East Lansing) passionate rebuke of the legislation from the Senate floor has garnered over 11,000 views on YouTube, and resulted in emails from all over the world, her office reports.

On Thursday, Mike Flannigan, superintendent of public instruction for the Michigan Department of Education, condemned the legislation in a written statement:

“There should never be an excuse or reason or justification for anyone to bully, intimidate, or harass a student. I cannot imagine any real moral conviction or religious teaching that says it acceptable to inflict pain, humiliation, and suffering on another person, especially a child. The legislation, as passed by the Michigan Senate, is a disappointing development in a process that we have worked on so diligently together for the protection of all schoolchildren in Michigan. After my long relationship with families of children who have committed suicide after being bullied, I find this bill now to be a joke, especially as it is named in memory of one of those children.”

Even the legislation’s original sponsor, Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) told the Lansing State Journal he “could live without” the clause, but agreed to it because other members of his caucus wanted to protect First Amendment rights.

Here is the video of Whitmer’s speech:

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