By Tara Cavanaugh
LANSING- The debate on which version of an anti-bullying bill will continue after state lawmakers return from their two-month summer break.
Michigan is one of only six states without any anti-bullying legislation. There are two versions of an anti-bullying bill, also known as “Matt’s Safe School Law,” named for a teen who committed suicide after being bullied in school. One version of Matt’s law lists specific classes that school districts must protect, including LGBT students. The other version does not list any specific classes.
Republican lawmakers have backed the general version of the bill. Democrats, the Michigan State Board of Education and Gov. Rick Snyder say they back the enumerated version that protects specific classes of students.
On June 29, Michigan’s House Education Committee heard testimony on House Bill 4163, which is the general version of the law. Testimony given from advocates and high school students noted that committee members would strengthen the bill by requiring school districts to adopt policies that list protected categories and report incidents of bullying and harassment. The committee did not hear from all fifteen citizens who wanted to offer testimony.
“We are disappointed to have to oppose House Bill 4163 today but feel that changes can be made to strengthen it so it becomes the powerful tool it is intended to be,” said Emily Dievendorf, policy director at Equality Michigan. We need to require school districts to adopt policies that list protected categories and report incidents of bullying and harassment.”
“Our kids need to be assured that their second home, their school, is conducive to learning and is accepting of who they are.”
In June, three dozen teens went to Lansing to encourage lawmakers to pass the enumerated version of the bill. The students are involved in Riot Youth, an LGBTQ program based out of Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone. They spoke with Democratic and Republican lawmakers and encouraged them to pass the bill that would protect all students.