Michigan bullying law has fatal flaw
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 18:12
Since it's adoption in 1787, the Constitution of the United States has been upheld as the supreme law of the land.
We all enjoy the freedoms it protects such as my First Amendment right to write this article, our right to vote, and so on, but can you think of a time at which those rights should be suppressed?
I recently wrote that the right of a woman to choose should never be infringed upon, and I agree with that, but what about when speech should be censored?
We all know and understand in certain places you shouldn't use certain language. You were never allowed to use expletives in class, more in the lower grades than now, even though the First Amendment protected that speech.
There are rules against language that can distract from the learning environment, and let's face it, there are a lot of words that are discouraged because they can plain hurt.
The words that hurt--that's an interesting thought.
The state of Michigan just passed an anti-bullying piece of legislation that was designed to protect students against those words. Senate Bill 137 was passed on Nov. 2 with the aim to "adopt and implement a policy prohibiting bullying by pupils at school."
There is no mention of any of the subgroups that can often bear the brunt of a bully or differences that draw the unwanted attention of a mean spirited comment or action. The bill seems to be simply written to protect all students.
Teachers and students alike can seem to benefit from the guidelines laid out in the bill.
There are formation of anti-bullying campaigns, peer mediation, and other programs to promote acceptance, but then buried on page five in sub-section eight is this paragraph: "This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the constitution of the United States or under Article I of the State Constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian. 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's parent or guardian."
Read it again. The scope of the bill to "prohibit bullying BY pupils" just gave permission to the adults.
This one clause in an otherwise admirable bill just allowed the grown-ups, the ones that children hold in high regards, the examples, to use a religious or moral belief to make a statement of hatred toward any group or individual that may be on the receiving end of abuse.
I read this and I think of the LGBT community and the atrocities that they endure at school, traveling to and from school and in online form from ignorant hatemongers, but it's not just them.
A KKK member can come to a public school and espouse statements that demean any race other than whites.
A teacher can say that his Christian belief tells him that the Wiccan student in his classroom is less because his religion tells him so.
A teacher can call a student out for not conforming to norms because they morally believe the student should.
Don't tell me I'm stretching what those two sentences say, because if I can think it, so will others.
Children need to feel safe at school. They need to believe that their teachers, the administrators, volunteers and other adults in their schools are there to help them succeed and become something in life.
They need to know that they are not being judged for the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or for the things that make them unique.
This law, which started off with the best of intentions, just said that any adult can say anything they want toward any group of individuals as long as they think they stand on some moral high ground.
If they do this at schools, then the bully that we combat everyday will think that they have been right all along, because if teachers can do it, so can they.
Mandie is a junior majoring in secondary social science education. She is married with two children and serves on the Board of Directors of C.A.R.E.S. Suicide Prevention.