Senate passes SB 137; Dems call it “Republican license to bully”

On a 26-11 vote, the Senate passed SB 137 that requires schools districts to have an anti-bullying policy. The bill sparked heated debate, with Democrats criticizing the bill for the loopholes that allow bullying to still happen. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) is sponsor of the bill.

As passed, the bill provides no real protection against bullying. It allows bullying comments which stem from religious beliefs; it lists no protections for homosexual or disabled students; and it excludes cyber-bullying.

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) blasted the bill for having holes big enough “to drive a Mack truck through and was “worse than doing nothing.” In passionate support of her “no” vote on the bill, Whitmer called the legislation a “Republican license to bully.”

Republicans voted down amendments which would have placed restrictions on a school district’s anti-bullying policy, saying that a school district should be able to decide what a student could be bullied for. In this case, local control seemed to matter to some legislators.

Before the final vote was taken, Sen. Glenn Anderson (D-Westland) read a statement of opposition from the father of Matt Epling, an East Lansing student who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied. The bill has been referred to as “Matt’s law.”