By Tara Cavanaugh
More than three dozen students from area high schools took the state capitol by storm last Wednesday, telling their lawmakers they need to be protected.
The students, who take part in who take part in Riot Youth, an LGBTQQA program at Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone, lobbied their representatives and senators to vote for an anti-bullying bill. Michigan is one of only six states that does not have an anti-bullying law.
There are two versions of the anti-bullying bill, one that lists specific classes of students to protect, and another general bill that does not list any classes. The teens want lawmakers to vote for the one “with teeth.”
“We just really want to stress how important enumeration is to an anti-bullying bill because without enumeration, these bills pretty much don’t do anything, just lip service,” said Mishka Repaska, who attends Community High School in Ann Arbor. “We want to talk about how all students are going to be protected under this bill.” Repaska and a small group of the students were scheduled to talk with staffers of Sen. Joe Hune, R-22.
Another small group of the students talked with Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-18 and Sen. Randy Richardville, R-17. Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-6, met with the entire group of the students.
Before the students talked with their legislators, they also performed “Gayrilla Theater” in the glass rotunda in the Capitol building. The performance spells out the difficulties of being an LGBT teen in high school.
One by one, they ended the performance with this demand:
“You’ve heard some of our stories, but there are many more out there. It is your job to find them. Talk to students. Ask them about their stories. Help up access resources. Give us your time. Give us your protection. Help make schools safer for us. Help make everywhere safer for us. Help us create a caring community, in our district, in our county, in our state. Do right. Be adults!”
Rep Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, viewed the performance and thanked the students.
“Keep up your activism, doing what you’re doing, speaking up for the things you care about,” he said. “Sometimes you may feel that you’re walking through deep sand and you’re not getting a lot of traction. But let me tell you, when you look back in the review mirror you’ll realize you’ve gone quite a distance.”