By Todd A. Heywood | 03.29.11 | 10:46 amMichigan advocates are continuing their drive to get the state legislature to pass an anti-bullying bill, even as Arkansas has gone back and reworked its law.
The new Arkansas law, which is heading to the desk of Gov. Mike Beebe, was amended to specifically list, or enumerate, protected classes.
In Michigan, the legislature’s conservatives, fueled by activism by Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, have long opposed legislation including enumeration. In the last hours of the 2008 sessions, advocates for the law agreed to strip the bill of enumeration, to address concerns from Republicans. Republican Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) however refused to bring the stripped down bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
Cropsey was term limited out of office in November, but he was selected as the legislative liaison for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s pick to lead the Michigan State Police, Kristi Etue, said in December the Michigan State Police would continue its history of advocating for a strong anti-bullying law.
Kevin Epling, Co-Director of Bully Police USA, and the father of a son who committed suicide as the result of bullying, says he is frustrated at the lack of movement from the legislation.
“Arkansas has had a law for several years, but in keeping with many states it appears they have seen the need to update and adapt existing laws, to meet the needs of the changing dynamic of the bullying problem,” says Epling. “While Arkansas and other states have moved forward, it seems Michigan lawmakers have been committed to head in the opposite direction. Which to many parents has been extremely frustrating, and to a degree has cost students their lives because our previous lawmakers chose not to act and allowed people to simply look the other way.”
He said the recent anti-bullying conference at the White House was another reminder for him about how important the laws are.
“Seven years ago in Michigan my words fell on deaf ears, and to now hear our president echo some of those same thoughts is a strong vindication that some of us have always been on the right track for the right reasons: The safety of our children,” he says. “I am hopeful that our new legislative class will show their true ‘class’ and work for our kids and not their party or themselves this time around.This has never been about political party affiliation, sexual orientation or diminishing local control, it has been about our children and what they need, not what the adults want. Michigan’s political leadership needs not only to follow the other states but we should show our leadership and put forth a law that shows our commitment to our future generations.”
When and if the legislation passes, Epling says there is still much work left to be done to stop the bullying crisis in the country and state.
“We must remember that whatever language is in the Arkansas bill or is finalized in Michigan’s bill, it will still be the final implementation and enforcement of that law to make the changes needed,” Epling said. “Having a law is far better than just a policy but once passed, even though it has been a struggle for many of us, there is plenty of hard work ahead.”
Advocates for an strong anti-bullying bill will present a special showing of the play The Bullycide Project at Michigan State University’s Pasant Theater, located in the Wharton Center for Performing arts. The production will be Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The play was written and performed by actors of the Trust Theater Ensemble. Click here to view a trailer about the play on Facebook.