More than 50,000 people have joined the Change.org campaign started by two bullied Michigan LGBT students demanding that the state legislature pass a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that includes protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Katy Butler and Carson Borbely, two students who say they endured brutal bullying in Michigan schools, launched the campaign following the passage of the controversial “license to bully” bill in the Michigan state senate, which permitted bullying done on the basis of “religious or moral convictions.” Their online petition urges leaders in the Michigan legislature to oppose this exemption and approve a comprehensive bill that explicitly lists the reasons students are most often bullied and includes reporting requirements for schools.
“I’m speaking out for all those students who suffer every day at school,” said Butler, a 16-year-old junior at Greenhills High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “As students, we deserve a bill that will actually protect us at school. Unfortunately, the bills being considered in Lansing fall short of doing that.”
“People keep telling us youth that ‘it gets better,'” Butler added. “Well, it can’t get better if you don’t make it better. I’m doing my part to help; please do yours.”
In the past, Butler claims to have endured shoving, harsh name-calling, and an incident when her hand was slammed in a locker door. Her friend Carson Borbely, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Ann Arbor District School, identifies as a transgender male and has allegedly been subjected to repeated harassment.
“A few weeks ago in class, I brushed a friend’s hair away from her face,” said Borbely. “A loud voice sharply interrupted, ‘Don’t touch her. Trannies carry diseases.’ The teacher didn’t do anything.”
Within 48 hours of the two students launching their campaign for a comprehensive anti-bullying bill, Katy and Carson had recruited more than 5,000 supporters on Change.org, the world’s fastest growing platform for social change. This week, the campaign reached 50,000 supporters.
“It’s been incredible to watch this campaign explode almost overnight,” said Change.org Organizing Manager Mark Anthony Dingbaum. “Change.org empowers anyone, anywhere to demand action on the issues that matter to them, and Katy and Carson’s campaign exemplifies that. They’ve effectively injected youth voices into a debate where students have been noticeably absent, and they’ve sent a very clear message to Lansing: We won’t tolerate bullying in schools or at the state capitol.”
Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives responded to intense public pressure by passing a different anti-bullying bill without the controversial religious exemption. The bill now heads to the state senate, lacking the enumerated protections and reporting requirements that the students claim would strengthen the bill.
Katy and Carson believe that if enough people sign the online petition campaign, the Michigan state senate will pass a strong anti-bullying bill that omits any special exemptions, lists enumerated protections, and includes reporting requirements.
Live signature totals from Katy Butler and Carson Borbely’s campaign: