Show me your teeth

BTL Staff
By | 2011-05-05T09:00:00-04:00 May 5th, 2011|Uncategorized|

Gov. Rick Snyder announced last week that he fully supports an anti-bullying bill, and that our state should pass one as soon as possible.
This is good news. An anti-bullying bill, nicknamed “Matt’s Law” – after Matthew Epling, a Michigan teen who committed suicide due to bullying – has been stuck in our state legislature since 2006. But there’s two versions of the bill, one general version and another one that specifically protects all students from bullying, and we have to make sure the right one passes. The enumerated version of the bill lists out the students it will protect, and LGBT students are on that list. Supporters say this version has “teeth.” The non-enumerated version of the bill does not offer specific protections. (So we guess it just has gums.)
Interestingly, Snyder said he supports the version that the State Board of Education backs, which happens to be the enumerated one. This earned him some tepid applause from the LGBT community – because now the struggle comes in making sure Republican lawmakers follow Snyder’s lead in approving the enumerated version.
While some may say that a general anti-bullying bill is enough, they fail to understand that the most vulnerable students need to be specifically protected. Increasingly, LGBT students are standing up and saying their school environments are not conducive to learning – and are even sometimes unsafe. And they’re not just talking about being hassled by other students. They’re talking about the lack of support from teachers and administrators who see bullying and let it slide, or who refuse to believe the students who have the guts to report incidents of harassment and violence.
Snyder said that he wants to make sure that each school can figure out how it wants to protect students from bullying, but schools need to have some guidance that will show them who to protect and how to do so. An enumerated anti-bullying bill with teeth will provide that necessary framework, and will force faculty and staff to get on board once and for all.
Matt’s Law has lingered in the legislature for too long. Our state is one of the five (five!) that don’t have any sort of anti-bullying law, and it’s about time Michigan gets on board with the rest of the country. A school that isn’t safe for everyone is a school that’s not safe for anyone. Tell your lawmakers that they should have the guts to show support for the right version of this bill – and finally, some teeth.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.