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Victims of school bullying can anonymously step forward to help LGBT-rights activists to lobby a school-safety bill in front of state Representatives and Senators in Lansing.
“We decided to launch ‘Make the Bullies Stop!’ because bullying victims might not feel safe to come to Safe Schools Lobby Day,” said Sean Kosofsky, Triangle Foundation’s director of policy, in a statement. “We want to make it possible for them to talk about their experiences as victims of bullying without having to compromise their anonymity or safety.”
Volunteers from throughout Michigan will be at the Capitol on March 28 to lobby for the passage of Matt’s Safe Schools Law, which would require every school district in Michigan to enact and enforce comprehensive anti-bullying legislation.
“How could anyone – legislator or voter alike – ignore the stories of children who are being bullied right now, every day, in our public schools?” Kosofsky said.
A similar bill, criticized by republicans for opening the door to legal action against schools that regard homosexuality as a sin, cleared in Iowa late last month. Ten respondents, who Triangle is keeping anonymous, have written letters detailing their experiences through Triangle Foundation’s Web site, www.tri.org.
“I was taunted, pushed around and even physically abused because I was gay,” Michael from Wayne Country wrote. ” … Because I was gay and thought that being gay was a bad thing I considered suicide.”
Fred from Macomb County wrote: “I ended up being so depressed that I shot myself instead of anyone at school … . I still worry about young people today going through the same thing I did, and either hurting themselves or others in response.”
Dawn Wolfe, Triangle Foundation’s director of communication, hopes the campaign will empower bullying victims through their anonymous letters and will persuade legislators to see that the issue carries real human consequences.
“No young person should be afraid to attend school,” Wolfe said. “And bullying is never acceptable – I don’t care if the bully is doing it because she or he thinks the victim is ‘fat’ or ‘gay’ or doesn’t wear the ‘right’ clothing, or any of the other usual excuses. This is not a gay issue, though it does affect GLBT kids. It is a human issue, and the only humane response is for our state legislature to pass Matt’s Safe Schools Law.”
The Make the Bullies Stop! bill is named for Matt Epling, who committed suicide in 2002 at 14 years old as a result of bullying.
“Matt Epling is one of three bullying-related suicide victims whose parents are working with the Safe Schools Coalition to pass this legislation,” Kosofsky said in a statement. “We hope that, by providing a way for victims to tell their stories without fear of retribution, we will both encourage our legislators to protect Michigan’s students and, perhaps, lessen the fear and isolation these victims may be feeling.”