Just days after a cellphone video emerged showing a gay 15-year-old in Ohio being assaulted by another student, the Michigan Senate passed new anti-bullying legislation, but some say it actually encourages bullying to take place.
Chief among its critics is Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who in a searing floor speech said that the new “Matt’s Safe School Law,” named after a Michigan teen who committed suicide after an anti-gay hazing attack, is meaningless.
Whitmer cites a special exception in the law for bullies who have “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The law also does not address bullying against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“You may be able to pat yourselves on the back today and say that you did something, but in actuality you are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying,” said Senator Whitmer. “As passed today, bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it.”
Kevin Epling, father of the Michigan teen for whom the bill has been named, agrees with Whitmer. His son Matt had syrup and crushed eggs poured over his head by bullies just days before he killed himself.
“This is government-sanctioned bigotry,” Epling told the Detroit Free Press. Epling said he was “ashamed” of the language that was added last- minute.
Last year, a rise in the numbers of anti-gay bullying incidents in the United States led to a state of suicides. While many schools responded by stepping up their efforts to protect against bullying, incidents such as the Ohio beating captured on a cellphone earlier this week shows the problem has not gone away.
Watch Sen. Whitmer’s speech:
Watch a message from Matt’s dad:
And a tribute to Matt from Massachusetts teens: