GOP-led Michigan Senate approves gutless “anti”-bullying legislation

Matt Epling's name is on the Michigan legislation. Matt killed himself in 2002 because of bullying. His family has committed to the ideal that "No child goes through what Matt did and no family goes through what we have

The father of the boy whose name is attached to “anti-bullying” legislation in Michigan has expressed “shame” about the bill. Why?

The boy in question, Matt, killed himself in 2002 at age 14 because of extensive bullying from classmates. Matt’s father, Kevin Epling, has said in a letter to the Michigan senate as that legislative body voted on the law,

“I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying when in fact it is a ‘bullying is OK in Michigan law,'”

Why does he describe it that way? Because the law gives any bully an out, legally. Senate Democracts–who voted en bloc against the bill—had tried to add language to the legislation disallowing bullying for specific characteristics, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. They struggled unsuccessfully, however, and the language in the version the Senate passed reads as follows:

This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under Article 1 of the state Constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteers, or a pupil’s parent or guardian. 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.

In other words, if you can claim some sort of bullshit moral ground for systematically abusing another person emotionally or physically, you’d be off the hook. If you repeatedly walk by a gay student and tell him he’s going to hell and then claim that it’s because your religious beliefs require you to view homosexuality as a sin and to say so, what you’re doing, under this bill, probably would not be considered bullying. If you verbally attacked a person of Arab descent because you think their religion is Islam and you claim you view Islam as a threat from your religious perspective, under this legislation, what you had done wouldn’t be considered bullying. If you cyberbullied a girl or woman for how she dresses because you claim your religion prohibits that form of attire based on moral grounds, under this legislation, you probably could get away with such bullying.

In other words, this shameful and empty act of legislative spinelessness yields absolutely nothing in the way of protection for the bullied. It is, in fact, an attempt to institutionalize an out for anyone who chooses to bully, as long as they claim first amendment protection on the grounds of a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” Of note, while all of the Democrats in the Michigan Senate voted against it, 26 Republicans voted for it. The Michigan Senate has only 38 members, and the vote was 26-11 in favor of passage.

This legislation is a pro-bullying bill, the only “anti-bullying” bill on tap for one of the three states in the nation to lack such a law. Way to go, Michigan Senate! By the way, I find your behavior offensive to my sincerely held moral convictions. Your proposed law would protect a whole lot of behaviors I might choose to use to express that.

More links about this story

Posted in Bullying in the news, Bullying-related legislation, Causes of bullying, Defending social Darwinism, Pro-bullying organizations, Suicide | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Post of the week: Why bullying won’t end

This week’s post is really an op-ed article from The Observer, in Dunkirk, New York. I selected it because there’s much in it with which I disagree, such as the following:

…We have police in schools because teachers and administrators have been disempowered of meting out proper and immediate punishment when it’s necessary. Modern society has determined that even parents who believe in corporal punishment are guilty of abuse and a form of bullying themselves. That’s just nonsense. That’s a clear case of forming rules by the extreme.

There’s more.

I think someone missed the irony of calling for corporal punishment–the physical infliction of pain on a person by someone with the greater power–in an article on bullying. The writer also poses a series of suggestions for pretty much unenforceable “solutions,” including the following:

Why can’t bullies be taken to court, placed on probation and their cell phones taken for say six months, assuming their parents won’t do it? (They won’t). Why can’t a court ban Internet access for the same six months with a conviction for cyber bullying, assuming the parents won’t do it? (They won’t).

And then suggests that

 Not participating in sports or any other extra-curricular activities can help, but only when meted out evenly and consistently. (We’ve all seen cases of the star athlete being given special consideration). Most of all, somebody has to admit and deal with the fact that not all kids deserve the education we provide, and that there are expectations and certain basic rules of conduct for those who do.

I actually haven’t see the “star athlete” given special consideration, but perhaps I lived a charmed life. And that last statement… “not all kids deserve the education we provide”? That is not only a slippery slope. That’s a super slide, straight to the bottom.

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Two updates on bullying, especially cyberbullying

The White House hosted a conference on bullying prevention today. The president recalls having been bullied for his big ears, and Michelle Obama and President Obama have a video posted on Facebook about bullying. In honor of today, PBS is linking to its recent story on online bullying and cybergossip–it’s worth a read.

In other Facebook news, Facebook has announced a suite of new tools to protect users from cyberbullying and to “promote a culture of respect.” These kinds of safeguards need to come from all directions, so good for Facebook for jumping on board with it. The changes include a safety center with resources and better tools for reporting content that is offensive or bullying.

It takes a village. In this case, the members of our village are our president and his wife and the company started by a man who made Time’s Person of the Year in 2010. Good on them all.



On March 10 the White House hosts a conference on bullying prevention. Watch Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly’s recent story on cyber bullying, abuse, and online gossip

Posted in Anti-bullying solutions, Bullying in the news, Celebrity | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Anti-bullying expert tells parents that much of their advice is wrong

Jodee Blanco knows bullies. They abused her, stuff snow into her mouth, tortured her until she prayed for death. And she says that what parents tell their kids about handling bullies is often way off the mark…

Blanco said the first most common mistake is telling a child to ignore the bullies and the bullies will leave them alone. Read more

She also says that in her experience, the bullies were “the most popular kids in school.” But that conflicts with a recent study that indicates that it’s the not-quite-most-popular kids that do the bullying.

Of course, experiences vary. If you were bullied, what was your experience? Was it the popular kids, or those lower on the totem pole?



Posted in Anti-bullying solutions, Bullying in the news, Causes of bullying | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Added to the Resources Page: State laws on cyberbullying, a roundup

You can access the document here (PDF).

And a good cyberbullying video here.

Posted in Anti-bullying solutions, Laws, School districts | Tagged | Leave a comment

A shortage of school counselors? That can’t be good

From the Washington Post “The Answer Sheet“:

Though the recommended number per counselor is 250 students, the American School Counselor Associations shows that the national average is actually one counselor for every 457 students. And those figures were from 2008-09, the latest available, but before many states slashed school budgets last year. Read more

According to at least one study, counselors are a much-needed presence in schools, influencing test score improvements, how teachers perceive the atmosphere at the school (and yes, that does matter), and other benefits, including reduced time teachers spend mediating negative student behavior.

Does your school have a counselor? If so, how effective does your school counselor seem to be?

Posted in Bullying in the news, Causes of bullying, School districts | Tagged | Leave a comment

A great resource, stumbled upon

A good blog to follow if you’re interested in bullying prevention resources is here at Books That Heal Kids.

Follow the Twitter feed here.

Examples of its usefulness–

1. A post of a review of a book chapter, All Girls Can Be Mean: When Your Daughter Is Acting Like a Mean Girl

2. A review of No Kidding about Bullying, for grades 3 to 6.

3. And an extensive list of reviews and commentary on other material related to bullying prevention.

This looks like a great resource, and I’m adding it to the Resources page, as well.

Posted in Anti-bullying solutions, Sharing stories | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Penn Jillette makes a point about suicide and bullying


Check out the comments accompanying the video on YouTube. What do you think?

Posted in Bullying in the news, Celebrity, Suicide | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Bullied teen develops text-based anti-bullying program: Report and Support

A teen who saved friend from suicide by reporting the friend’s expressed intention of killing himself has responded to her own experiences with bullying and her friend’s despondency by creating a text-based anti-bullying program for her school district to use:

Students Against Being Bullied will incorporate two designated texting systems: The first will be a report line, where administrative heads will be alerted of inappropriate behavior by victims or bystanders. The students’ names will remain confidential unless the situation is life-threatening.

The second is a support line, where counselors will be available to provide resources to benefit the students. The two help lines are strictly for text messaging between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. An e-mail system will also be in place for non-urgent reports or questions outside the texting hours. Read more

Her program incorporates not only the victims of bullying but also the behavior of bystanders, who, research has shown, can experience negative effects of witnessing bullying.

Story came my way via Twitter, in a tweet from parent advocate and author Sue Scheff and @BradleyHospital.

Posted in Anti-bullying solutions, School districts | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

For today’s consideration, three questions

Over at ParentDish, a mother asks, Was I right to change my daughter’s school because of bullying?

1. What do you think the parent should have done?

And my newspaper today carried this editorial by Esther Cepeda, “We must learn to look beyond our blind spots on bullying.” She discusses myths about bullying, including the persistent myth that bullying is an affliction of urban or poor schools and the other persistent myth that bullying is physical. Our personal experience negates either of those myths.

2. How do your experiences compare in the context of such myths?

Speaking of our personal experiences, our school–which my middle son still attends–recently mentioned a presentation at a booster club meeting of a “bullying prevention” program. We were invited to contact the counselor for more information, so I did. The “program” consisted of about 10 slides with little information to apply. I asked about a district-level anti-bullying program and was informed that there isn’t one. That is not surprising to me, but bullying is endemic in this district–and has been for decades–and I’d say they’d better develop and implement an anti-bullying program sooner rather than later, or they’re going to regret not taking pre-emptive action.

3. Does your district have a bully-prevention or anti-bullying program? If not, have you asked them to implement one?

Posted in Anti-bullying solutions, Bullying in the news, School districts | Tagged , , | 1 Comment