Michigan Dems say the Republican Senate gutted an anti-bullying bill when they added a clause that allows bullying based on “moral convictions.”
SB 137, also called “Matt’s Safe School Law” after 14-year old Matt Eppling who committed suicide in 2002 after being bullied, was approved in the state Senate by a 26-11 party line vote, and will now head to the House.
The bill lays out what exactly constitutes bullying, but in one key part it says that the legislation does not prohibit First Amendment rights, and “does not 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 Detroit News reports that Senate Dems tried to add language that would specifically prohibit bullying on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference, etc., but were unsuccessful.
“I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying when in fact it is a ‘bullying is OK in Michigan law,’” Kevin Eppling, the father of the bill’s namesake, said in a letter.
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) called the final version of the bill a “blueprint for bullying” in a floor speech. “Here today you claim to be protecting kids and you’re actually putting them in more danger.”
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