Published November 29, 2011
LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder is "very likely" to sign legislation that will require Michigan schools to adopt anti-bullying policies, his administration said Tuesday, just after lawmakers approved a new version without a clause that critics said would have allowed religious-based verbal harassment.
Having the measure become law would cap a roughly decade-long effort by supporters of the proposal. The Senate approved the bill 35-2 Tuesday and the House had already passed it, meaning it heads to Snyder. The Republican governor advocated for the law and is expected to sign it pending final review.
"The governor believes bullying at any time, under any circumstances, is wrong. Period," his spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said in a statement.
Public schools will have six months from the new law's effective date to adopt anti-bullying policies.
The bill does not include disputed language from a previous Senate version, which Democrats had said offered a blueprint for getting away with bullying in schools. That bill had said it "does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" of a student or school employee. That wording was dropped from the final version after the House wouldn't agree to it.
Michigan is one of only a few states without a state law requiring anti-bullying policies in schools. Efforts to pass a law have fizzled for years as lawmakers argued over the contents. Some conservatives, for example, had been worried it was an effort by gay rights advocates to carve out special protections for homosexuals.
After some give-and-take, lawmakers agreed this year on a bill that requires policies saying "all pupils are protected" under the measures and bullying is prohibited "without regard to its subject matter" or motivation.
feel the bill headed to Snyder also is not detailed enough and does not include enough reporting requirements.
Kevin Epling, whose 14-year-old son Matt killed himself after a hazing incident in 2002, said the measure isn't perfect but is still an important step to crack down on bullying and harassment in schools. The bill will be named "Matt's Safe School Law."
"It sets us in the right direction, it gets everybody on the same page," said Epling, who was preparing to make an anti-bullying presentation at a Michigan high school on Tuesday when he heard about final passage of the bill. "It sends a message across the state that bullying is not to be tolerated in any form."
Some lawmakers say the bill isn't detailed or tough enough to be effective. They want tougher reporting requirements, more protections against cyberbullying and more detailed lists of reasons why students can't be bullied, such as sexual orientation, race and weight.
Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, said the measure "falls far short" of what should be done to protect students.
Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, also voted against the bill. A message was left