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Letter to the editor

Michigan Senate hurting schools' anti-bullying efforts

November 09, 2011 - By Marion Ginopolis

LOCS Superintendent

Our youth today say that bullying is one of the biggest problems they face. School districts and communities across the state, including Lake Orion, are taking significant steps to address this situation. It is too bad the Michigan Senate is trying to derail our efforts.

The National Crime Prevention Council cites that 52 percent of students report seeing bullying at least once a week. Clearly, this negatively affects the victims and the bullies, as well as the kids who witness this behavior and the school environment as a whole.

The Lake Orion Community School District, with support from local businesses and residents, has launched the implementation of a district-wide bully-prevention program. It will create an environment in which bullying is never tolerated and all students feel safe and valued - where children are free to learn academically and to thrive emotionally.

However, just when we thought we were making significant strides to prevent, or at least reduce, bullying in our schools, our elected legislators in the Michigan Senate threw us a curve ball. Last Wednesday, the Senate passed (26-11) an anti-bullying bill, SB 137, which manages to protect school bullies instead of those they victimize. It accomplishes this by allowing students, teachers and other school employees to claim that "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" justifies harassment.

The original bill was edited to make bullying okay if done for religious reasons. In other words, as passed, bullying is allowed if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it. The law basically says it is okay to bully or to ignore instances of bullying convictions, which is contrary to the rest of the bill. It flies in the face of what we have been telling students: step in and step up when they see this unacceptable behavior taking place in their school.

Quite frankly, I had to read the legislation numerous times because I could not believe what I read the first time. To think that our legislators would sanction any instance of bullying is beyond comprehension. What are they thinking?

The anti-bullying legislation now moves to the Michigan House of Representatives. I can only hope that we have sensible Representatives there who will protect our children from bullies by removing this most shameful language in the legislation.

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