News (USA)

Michigan House strips exceptions from anti-bullying bill, sends it back to Senate

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan House of Representative this week passed its own version of the anti-bullying bill, removing the controversial language inserted by Senate Republicans that allowed for exceptions to the law for “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

The bill, HB 4163, passed in the House Bill by a vote of 88-18, and now goes back to the state Senate for consideration.

Michigan lawmakers have faced criticism nationwide since the Senate passed its version of the bill on Nov. 2. The House version is intended as a compromise, although House Democrats said the bill — even though it received bipartisan support — does not go far enough.

The House bill requires all districts have an anti-bullying policy – policies that must be reported to the Michigan Department of Education. The education department would then need to report to the Legislature on the status of the implementation of the policies. But House Democrats said more reporting is needed to determine if the policies are working.

“We owe our children more,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). “They deserve more protection than this bill offers.”

Emily Dievendorf, Director of Policy for Equality Michigan, said that Michigan needs enumerated legislation that includes reporting requirements.

“We applaud the House Democrats for trying to add the language necessary to make this bill effective. Unfortunately, Republican pressure to pass a useless bill blocked those efforts. The research is clear and we have plenty examples of effective anti-bullying legislation, but House leaders have ignored them.

Dievendorf said that Equality Michigan opposes the bill because it will not provide comprehensive protection for Michigan students.

“HB 4163 does not incorporate best practices used around the nation and provides little direction for local school districts,” she said.

“Equality Michigan calls on Michigan Senators to put partisan politics aside in favor of doing what’s best for all Michigan students when this bill comes to them. We can’t afford to waste any additional time on the weak version of this bill that doesn’t address the destructive problem of bullying in our schools.”

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) has called on the Senate to take immediate action of the the bill instead of taking a planned two-week break.

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