Good job, Mr. Potvin
There is some good, and there is some less than good news coming out of Lansing.
Last week, I expressed my concern over the State Senate’s passing of a bill that addressed the issue of bullying, but in fact continued to allow bullying under the guise of a religious belief or moral conviction.
The Republican state senators action actually attracted the attention of much bigger fish than me.
Comedic pundit Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” found the situation so ridiculous he used the Michigan Senate and their legislation in the opening segment of one of last week’s programs.
At least the Michigan Senate’s bid to address bullying gave the nation a reason to laugh.
But there is good news out of Lansing, and despite State Rep. Phil Potion’s claim that newspapers, (and specifically this newspaper), only report on the bad stuff, I will give credit where credit is due.
Last week, Michigan’s House of Representatives passed legislation entitled House Bill 4163 — Matt’s Safe School Law.
The bill was named in honor of high school student Matt Eppling who committed suicide after being bullied beyond his breaking point.
(At least 10 students in Michigan who identified themselves as “gay” and who were incessantly bullied by others in their schools have killed themselves. A sad result of their persecution.)
Potvin was the bill’s primary sponsor, and deserves credit for taking a stand and creating a bill that was much more common sensical than that produced by his Senate colleagues.
The House bill put none of the restrictions or exceptions so ridiculously added to the Senate offering.
While claiming to be an anti-bullying bill, Senate Republicans bowed to pressure from the religious right — the GOP’s so-called base — and added one sentence to its version:
“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 and parent or guardian.”
Potvin’s bill reads simply that every school district must have a policy in place that expressly prohibits bullying and that ALL students “ ... are protected under the policy and that bullying is equally prohibited without regard to it’s subject matter or motivating animus.”
Note well: “... bullying is equally prohibited without regard to it’s subject matter or motivating animus.” (Animus is defined as an attitude that generates or inaugurates one’s actions.)
In Potvin’s bill that passed a House vote last week, ALL bullying is prohibited without exception.
Thank goodness someone stepped up to the plate and stopped the silliness generated by the Senate, (although the House version of the bullying bill still needs Senate approval).
There are plenty of good things in Potvin’s bill.
It includes “...a procedure for providing notification to the parent or legal guardian of a victim of bullying and the parent or legal guardian of a perpetrator of the bullying.”
The bill demands there be a procedure for “prompt investigation” of a report of bullying.
Also a good thing. Bullying can no longer be swept under the carpet by either parents (”Ah c’mon. Boys will be boys”), or school authorities, (”We didn’t know”).
In Potvin’s bill there is a section demanding the formation of bullying prevention task forces within a school district (something that already exists in many districts but will be made mandatory in all districts).
Another good thing to come out of Potvin’s bill is a simple and clear definition of bullying:
“... any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm one or more pupils either directly or indirectly ...”
The important point here is the realization that bullying can be written, verbal, or physical, but that it also can be electronic.
But most important, the bill addresses bullying without distinction of cause or motivation.
There’s no giving religious bullies a break, despite the absolutely stupid comment by Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, who called anti-bullying legislation “... a Trojan horse for the homosexual agenda.”
Luckily, Potvin and others stood up to the bullying of Glenn, the American Family Association of Michigan, and others like them.
Bullies they are, and bullies they will continue to be.
If there is any weakness in Potvin’s bill, it is that after the law is passed, the legislature basically washes its hands of the affair and school districts are shackled with the onus of everything from mandated training, to formulation of appropriate punishment.
It’s about time that the guys in Lansing realize that when you mandate action, you really oughta offer some funding toward fulfilling the legislated mandate.
That didn’t happen.
But what did happen was the House passage of a bill that will provide the ‘structure’ for taking bullies to task.
I suppose everyone will take notice … except bullies.
Good job, Mr. Potvin.