BY GABRIELLE BOYER, Guest Columnist
In college, you are supposed to recreate yourself, to be born anew, to be anything you want to be, and the best you that you can be. I don’t think that’s true.
To tell you the truth, I will always be the “Amazon” of Belleville High School. Even though I am three years out of high school, I still am self-conscious about my height, something I was teased relentlessly for. I cringe at events I have to wear heels to, and feel a sense of loss when guys pass me up at parties for shorter girls. Even though I got off pretty light, I was still a victim of bullying, something that stays with me even today.
On November 2, the Michigan State Senate signed into law bill 137–which requires school districts to adopt an anti-bullying policy. Forty-seven other states already have an anti-bullying policy, so Michigan is already late to the game. What makes Michigan stand out the most, however, is a clause added by Michigan Senate Republicans. The anti-bullying act is in effect as long as “… [it] does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil & parent or guardian.”
My primary concern is the logic here. For one, this seems like a positive thing to add, because if you look at it purely, there isn’t a religious or moral doctrine that encourages cruelty or violence to others. But (and it’s a big but) that’s not how a child thinks. That’s not even how adults think, because that’s not how the world is.
If I was brought up in a White Supremacist household, I would have the moral conviction to rid my class of all my non-white Christian students, by any means necessary. A lawmaker would argue that this was a hyperbole, but isn’t that the spirit of the language? Speaking of language, how can we, or any governing body, examine what the difference is between a sincerely held belief and an excuse to bully? This clause isn’t limiting bullying. It’s providing a method for children to get away with it.
In 2002, Matt Epling of East Lansing killed himself after a reported hazing incident. This bill was supposed to be Matt’s Safe Law. Would this law, as it is, have saved Matt? Or any other kid like him? I honestly don’t think so. This loophole, if you can even call it a loophole, provides a free pass for bullying on the basis of constitutional rights. It is written in our constitution that we have the right of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” So I ask you, where does the line get drawn? Because I am damn sure that bullying infringes upon the constitutional rights of others.
No matter what side of the political fence you sit on, this is wrong. Every child should be safe from bullying, and no child should be a repeat of Matt Epling.