Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Law’s clause fosters hate, bullying

The so-called anti-bullying bill that passed the Michigan Senate on Nov. 2 is a disgrace. SB 137, or Matt’s Safe School Law, now is designed to actually legalize bullying, the exact opposite of the intention of the bill’s authors. Michigan Republicans added a clause to the bill at the last minute which exempts school bullying based on one’s religious or moral convictions. I don’t know of a single religion or moral code that condones inflicting pain and suffering on anyone, let alone a child. Michigan children should be able to go to school in a safe environment where they don’t have to worry about being harassed because a classmate thinks they might be gay.

The Republicans that supported this bill should be ashamed of themselves. They claim that this clause protects first amendment freedoms, when in reality it only protects bigoted bullies who should be punished. As if protecting bullies weren’t enough, the Republican clause also protects school employees who decline to intervene based on their religious or moral convictions. In effect, teachers and principals are excused from their duty to protect their students if they witness bullying based on something that goes against their religious beliefs. I fail to see how this would in any way foster a safe learning environment.

Anti-bullying laws should not be a partisan issue, yet Michigan Senate Republicans are using this bill to further a strictly partisan agenda that is in direct opposition to SB 137’s original intent. State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, correctly characterized this version of SB 137 as a blueprint for bullying. I applaud Whitmer for her impassioned speech against this atrocity of a bill.

SB 137 is now before the Michigan House. I encourage you to contact your State Representative and encourage them to vote against any version of SB 137 that includes the clause introduced by Republicans. Religious or moral conviction should not be a legitimate excuse for bullying, and any legislation that condones it is reprehensible.

Ana Wolken, social relations and policy junior

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