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Michigan House passes anti-bullying bill

The Michigan House of Representatives passed an anti-bullying measure this afternoon that does not include the religious exception language that was in a similar bill passed by the Senate last week. The bill passed 88-18.

The House bill, like the Senate bill, is unenumerated — that is, it does not include a list of groups that are routinely subjected to bullying or reasons why kids are often bullied, such as religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and so forth. Advocates of strong anti-bullying legislation have long favored an enumerated bill. Emily Dievendorf of Equality Michigan issued this statement about the bill:

“Equality Michigan applauds the Democratic legislators in the House that pushed for the addition of the strong language that would actually protect our students from bullying. Unfortunately, the pressure to pass just anything squashed their ability to make this bill something effective that we can celebrate. We have the case studies and data to know how to create a strong bill the first time. Oregon recently had to amend its anti-bullying law after 10 years when data showed that the students most bullied in Oregon schools, African-American and Native-American students, had not experienced relief from its anti-bullying policy. Michigan has lost at least ten students to bullying related suicide since 2001. We cannot afford to waste any additional time on a version of the anti-bullying bill that neglects to address this devastating and debilitating problem in our schools. Equality Michigan calls on the Michigan Senate to put partisan politics and political ideology aside in favor of standing up for all Michigan students.”

Rep. Kate Segal voted for the bill but said it should only be a first step:

Today, this bill is not a cause for celebration, because it is only one very small step. I hope my colleagues will join me in using this bill only as a starting point and to keep working until we can get real anti-bullying legislation — with real teeth –that helps every child in Michigan.

The actions taken by my Republican colleagues in the Senate last week made Michigan the target of ridicule and mockery in the news and on comedy programs across the country. With the eyes of the entire nation upon us, why aren’t we using this opportunity to pass real, strong and comprehensive anti-bullying laws, instead of passing the weakest acceptable bill possible.

All of Michigan’s children deserve to be protected from bullying and while this bill lets us talk about how we have finally caught up to 47 other states–states that had more foresight and more courage–it will still leave us lagging far behind when it comes to protecting our kids.

While I voted yes on House Bill 4163, because I recognize that we needed to pass something, this bill is not nearly enough. I will continue fighting for strong anti-bullying laws that protect all of Michigan’s children and provide real protections against cyber-bullying.”

SB 137, the Senate bill passed last week, will not come up for a vote in the House. That bill is essentially stuck in committee. This House bill, HB 4163, will now go to the Senate for passage on its own. Whether Republican Senators will seek to put the religious exception language into that bill by amendment remains to be seen.

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