The Michigan anti-bullying law into which locals Republicans put in a clause, introduced in secret, allowing a cop out for anyone who can provide a religious or moral reason for their action is to be amended, reports say.
According to state Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), whose recorded comments on the clause in the State Legislature went viral on YouTube, the clause will be removed before the bill becomes law.
She made the comments to Michigan Live following a meeting with Republicans.
“It looks like they are poised to do that,” she said. “I’m glad to say that there are people on both sides of the aisle that believe that we should not legitimize excuses for tormenting a student in school.”
Key Republicans had already backed away from the clause.
Rep. Phil Potvin (R-Cadillac) told MIRS that his bullying bill in the Michigan House Education Committee won’t have a religious and moral exemption like the Senate-passed bill.
“Absolutely not,” Potvin said. “Why should it? We’re talking about everyone.”
House Education Chair Paul Scott told MIRS that the language caught him off-guard.
“It doesn’t strike me that a religious person would ever need to bully,” Scott said.
Whitmer had accused Republicans of creating a “license to bully” with the clause.
“Frankly, no one I talked to has any idea what the Senate Republicans were thinking when they decided to put this language in. We need to protect our kids. In the name and memory of Matt Epling, we need to do the right thing,” Whitmer said.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, told ABC:
“There were some caucus members who worried that if a child stood up in sex education class or speech class and made a statement: ‘In my religion, I don’t believe in gay marriage,’ or something, they didn’t want the child to be evicted from school for just making a statement.
“Nothing in the bill is intended that the child could confront another child and abuse them in any way. I wouldn’t have a problem with some of the language being removed as long as it was very clear that a student’s First Amendment rights were protected. … There is no intent on my part to justify bullying, in any form.”
The bill may also be amended further to cover cyberbullying. Kevin Epling, the father of Matt, said:
“I think there needs to be stronger language on cyberbullying and there needs to be stronger language on reporting, all the way to the state level,” he said. “Students are attacking each other 24/7.”
Michigan Senate Democrats have released a video with Michigan students speaking out against the ‘religious or moral reason’ clause.
Photo by Kelley Mari