How are lawyers like nuclear weapons? Because if the other side has one, you have to get your own; once launched they can never be recalled and when they hit the ground, they screw everything up forever.
Michigan, being on the forefront of nothing, has no anti-bullying law. The State Board of Education does provide for a Michigan Anti-Bullying Policy, however, no legislation mandates even a single school district adopt the policy. There have been previous attempts to pass such legislation, all having quietly dropped from sight.
“…that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; or a mental, physical, or sensory disability or impairment; or by any other distinguishing characteristic.”
However, this year the State Senate has decided to correct this oversight, and yesterday passed Senate Bill 137 mandating each school district implement and enforce a policy on bullying.
Good for us, right? Well…as the saying goes, the two things you should never see getting made are sausages and laws.
I suspect (with no confirmation of any sort, mind you), someone in committee worried that a statement such as “I think being gay is immoral” may be interpreted as bullying, and feared a Student stating a religious conviction would be considered a “bully” for having done so.
Stories such as this: Student expressing their opinion regarding homosexuality being immoral could generate such concern.
Therefore, SB 137 added a clause never seen in any previous submissions of the bill, providing the following exception:
“This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian.”
The (Democrat) minority leader expressed her frustration with the exception. Her statement on video is recorded at the Huffington Post article.
On the one hand, I understand the reason behind the exception. We do not want to temper or quash a student’s freedom of expression. However, the minority leader is precisely correct, by creating this exception, the law opens a HUGE loophole that every single lawyer, even the ones fresh from law school, understand can allow for bullying.
This exception does not protect a person from striking, kicking or beating, but so what? Those actions are criminal anyway, without the necessity of a new law. The concern is (since everyone has experienced it, either by being a bully, by being bullied or observation of bullying) how to prohibit this action. And verbal bullying is what this law is designed to prohibit. (There are provisions regarding using telecommunication devices. You can’t hit someone across Facebook.)
Yet now, if the bully continues to berate the student, “Hey, gaywad. You’re so gay. What’s up, faggot?” They can cite their religious belief and this is merely freedom of expression.
The law literally gives them to provision (and arguably the endorsement) to do so.
This is a bad law. We shall see how the Michigan House addresses it.
UPDATE: Looks like the language will not stay in the bill. Shows what a different world we live in, with the internet causing such an outcry the Michigan Senate Republicans agree to back down on this.