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Michigan GOP Pass Bullying Bill Giving ‘License To Bully’

by David Badash on November 3, 2011

in Bigotry Watch,Civil Rights,News,Politics

Post image for Michigan GOP Pass Bullying Bill Giving ‘License To Bully’

Michigan Senate Republicans have passed a bullying bill — not an anti-bullying bill — that actually gives license to bully. In an Orwellian twist, the bill, which passed 26-11, with zero Democratic votes, allows kids to be bullied by anyone: teachers, fellow students, school employees, volunteers and parents, if they can provide a so-called religious or moral reason for their actions, giving the phrase, “the devil made me do it” sufficient validity.

The bill itself amounts to a white collar hate crime against all victims of anti-gay bullying motivated suicide, as it’s named for a Michigan teen who died by suicide as a result of bullying. As one lawmaker, Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer said in an impassioned speech (video below), “the saddest and sickest irony of this whole thing is that it’s called ‘Matt’s Safe School Law’. And after the way that you’ve gutted it, it wouldn’t have done a damn thing to save Matt!”

The bill is named for Matt Epling (photo.)

The Michigan Messenger reports:

In a floor speech Minority Leader in the Senate Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) slammed the Republicans over the amended language.

“Here today you claim to be protecting kids and you’re actually putting them in more danger,” Whitmer said. “But bullying is not OK. We should be protecting public policy that protects kids — all kids, from bullies — all bullies. But instead you have set us back further by creating a blueprint for bullying.”

“Shockingly, Senate Bill 137 will do more harm than good. Senate Republicans left our students behind in favor of partisan politics and passed a bill that actually allows more bullying. Students and parents expect lawmakers to lead the charge against bullying, but instead Republicans made ideology more important than school safety,” said Emily Dievendorf, policy director of Equality Michigan. “Research clearly shows that only states with enumerated bills see a reduction in bullying. We need a bill that mentions the most affected populations and requires statewide reporting of bullying and harassment. SB 137 simply does nothing to reduce bullying in our schools.”

“To the families of the ten reported suicides that were directly linked to bullying and the countless others that have gone unreported, this bill adds insult to injury,” said Senator Glenn Anderson (D-Westland). “I have been working for years to pass legislation to provide a safe school environment for all of our students. This bill goes in the exact opposite direction and in fact provides a license to bully.”

The legislation passed 26-11. It now moves to the Republican-controlled House.

“I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying, when in fact it is a ‘bullying is OK in MI’ law,” said Kevin Epling, an East Lansing parent whose son committed suicide as a result of bullying. His comment was posted on his Facebook page.

In an interview he had more to say.

“For years the line has been ‘no protected classes,’ and the first thing they throw in — very secretly — was a very protected class, and limited them from repercussions of their own actions. This line has no purpose within this piece of legislation except to incite ‘religious bigotry’ within our schools. Schools are trying to build more tolerant students and future leaders, not automatons blindly following misguided adult leaders who seek a return to a 1950′s America,” Epling said. “This will only cause unrest in schools and give schools one more thing to deal with rather than trying to solve a problem. Also it is not a very well thought out ploy, as in some areas of the state the tables might be turned on the ‘anointed ones’ they seek to keep from being punished. This is just very wrong and the way it was done was wrong as well. It was bullying at its best.”

The Detroit Free Press notes:

Kevin Epling, whose son Matt Epling killed himself in 2002 after being bullied, said that the added language will allow anyone to bully a student and cite their religious beliefs. He has worked with lawmakers for years to developed anti-bullying legislation.

“This is just unconscionable. This is government-sanctioned bigotry,” said Epling of East Lansing, who said he is “ashamed” that lawmakers added the language at the last minute.

The DFP also notes that the bill addresses cyber-bullying but only when school district owned devices are the tools of the bullying.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that Matt Epling died as a result of anti-gay bullying. It is not known what the nature of the bullying was, nor is it known that Matt Epling was gay, nor was there any attempt to suggest he was. Anti-gay bullying can be focused on anyone, regardless of their orientation, but our apologies for not being more clear.

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fairfaxbrian November 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Gretchen Whitmer for President!

I can't say anything else… this is just sick.

quickgracenotes November 4, 2011 at 6:53 am


Occupy Verrmont November 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I thought this was satire at first… nahh, this could not be true, bus alas sadly not :(

Daley McKowen November 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Welp, time to whup the crap out of some Mormon kids.

(Not really.)

corey291974 November 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm

so you will defend my kids when kids who have been told being openly gay is ok try to touch my kids in an inapropriate way because they can do that a get away with it and yes it has happened and i teach my kids homosexuality is wrong and i also teach my kids to be polite to everyone gay straight whatever but i know this is a one sided chat .

walter_wicks November 5, 2011 at 5:22 am

is this guy for real?

teawrecks November 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm

You're either trolling or you have a severely bad relationship with logic.

IamLegion May 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Oh, stop lying!!

blakheart8 November 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm

what would be interesting is seeing how this would play if a Muslim bullied a Christian or Jew on the moral grounds of them being infidels and spiritually inferior, or vice versa…

i cannot imagine this would ever hold up in a court case though

erinelizabeth11 November 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Well, yet another reason that I will be moving out of this state ASAP – So hear this Michigan Republican party, I am a college educated, gainfully employed, contributing member to this state. I look forward to getting the hell out of here and never looking back. I cannot wait until my tax dollars go towards defending the countless lawsuits that will come from this bill. First of all, have you heard of separation of church & state? Allowing bullying in public schools (state) for religious reasons (church) is going to lead to a giant lawsuit. BTW, I guess I should look into the Wiccan & Satanic religions to defend any bullying actions that I deem necessary towards Christian biggots, because I sure as HELL would not support a religion (Christianity – which I assume you moral white knights are basing this law on) that isn't positive and accepting.

Once again, Michigan is an embarrassment. You can't even afford school books for every child. Maybe you should focus on some more important legislation like job creation, or public transportation. The day that my child is bullied for any reason is the day I will pull a backasswards religious excuse out of my pocket to defend what I do to the bully or their parents.

BobwaSEAWA November 5, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Wow, talk about the Republiturd sanctioned "I beat the kid to death because God said so". A law right out of the Dark Ages. It's just unbelievable.

LOrion November 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Tweeting about this, I am questioning whether there isnt a Michigan constitutional clause mandating separation of Church from State. Also since even relgious-based bigotry and bullying are SINS why are they mandating them in the Constitution?
Very very interesting family above. I do pray that all six boys are HET or there will be a very uncomfortable learning period for this 'cult'.

teawrecks November 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm

So let me get this straight: you raised your kids to be actively against "weakness" just like your father. Now the only thing keeping your kids from physically harming people is the punishment system. You look forward to this punishment being lifted so that your kids can bully people for being different, or as you put it, "our six sons’ proclivities will clearly fall within the realm of protected speech and moral and religious beliefs."
Question, do you believe it is freedom of speech and moral beliefs to be allowed to fly a plane into a world trade center?

bigremo November 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I think god wants me to start bullying lawmakers.

roseyer November 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

This is a "content free" article. Perhaps what the author really wants to say, but is afraid to, is he wants the first amendment repealed. I'm only guessing, the article itself tells nothing about what's in the bill.

David Badash November 9, 2011 at 12:44 am

So, let's see… You admit you have no idea what's in the bill, but you feel comfortable decrying that the article is 'content free." Come back after you've done your homework.

And no, I like the First Amendment. The Second Amendment could be repealed. Better yet, properly interpreted. That would be OK with me.

cbfan11 November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I'm curious to hear what you think should be changed in the Second Amendment.

David Badash November 10, 2011 at 12:10 am

I do not believe the Founders thought either that we would have AK 47s and other automatic weapons, nor do I believe they intended for everyone to have a gun.

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

"A well regulated militia being necessary" means just that. If they had intended for all people to have unencumbered access to weapons, they wouldn't have included that phrase.

Also, if that's the case, why can't I keep a rocket launcher in my garage? Or a nuclear weapon?

More Americans die in one weekend by guns than in the UK in an entire year. 10,000 Americans annually are killed by guns. What the hell is wrong with us?

IamLegion May 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Nothing. Just *properly interpreted*. As in "all gun owners go into the National Guard."

TRussert November 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

Just more evidence that the GOP's commitment to causing this country's destruction is not limited to those in the Beltway. State Legislators and probably even local GOP officials are all birds of a feather.
Where did these enemies of the State come from, and how did they infiltrate our political system? Foreign sleeper agents? Of course that's ridiculous, but how can a group of supposedly educated people all be so dedicated to such evil disregard for the majority they are supposed to be representing and protecting? Everything the GOP does is in direct conflict with the Declaration of Independence this country was founded upon. It is really hard to believe they are not part of some secret conspiracy. How else can such ludicrous reasoning and actions in an entire group of people (the GOP) be explained?
Statistically, the odds of such shared behavior by so many must be astronomical, especially in light of the fact they know they are acting in defiance of the majority. Scary indeed. Thank God we can eradicate this plague with the vote.

debdp November 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm

There is something very, very wrong in this country when a law like this can be passed. And I'll tell you what it is: There is no longer a separation between church and state. The lines are not just blurred now, they are completely erased. America has gone fundamentalist Christian happy. We are supposed to be the most forward-thinking country in the world. We are supposed to be the smartest. In a time when MOST nations are moving away from this kind of thing, we are rushing headlong into dominionism. This law is a disgrace. Michigan is a digrace. The GOP is a disgrace. And it's high time we take away ALL church and religious organization's 501(c)(3) status.

freemind11 November 7, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Who the hell wears the pants in your screwed up family. If your kids ever bullied me I would shank them.

kbyoung1870 November 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

What happens now? Is there anything to be done to repeal this?

Ljimi May 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I think that victims of bullying have the right to use weapons of their choice against those who bully them in Detroit.. I will gladly contribute to the defense fund of anyone who defends themselves in this manner..Fight The Good Fight!

IamLegion May 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm

That's what I ended up telling my kids when the school initially refused to do nothing about them being bullied. Luckily, it was a lower administrator who card more about the school's "non-suspension/ -expulsion record" than he cared about my children's welfare. the *principal*, OTOH, was a different story… :-D

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