October 12, 2011

>No Laughing Matter: Michigan Needs Anti-Bullying Legislation

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Guest blog post by Noel Gordon, Michigan student and former GLSEN Public Policy Intern

The Michigan Senate is poised to take a vote on legislation intended to curb school bullying and harassment. Just last week, it was reported that lawmakers laughingly refused to even consider anti-bullying protections. Elected officials, students, and advocates remained in the Capitol all night to protest this outrageous behavior. The fact that an anti-bullying bill (SB 137) is being considered at all would be reason to celebrate, especially during National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. But only if the bill in question were actually worth supporting.

Here's why: SB 45, in its current form, lacks important reporting requirements and fails to provide clear, unambiguous protections to student populations most often targeted for bullying and harassment. This includes students of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, two communities who struggles I know all too well.

A reporting requirement would be extremely helpful to capture the real experiences of LGBT students. Findings from the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey revealed the kind of bullying Michigan’s LGBT students endure on a daily basis. You can read the GLSEN Michigan Research Brief here.

As a Michigan student, I am embarrassed by the fact that our legislature has yet to get a comprehensive anti-bullying bill through the legislature and to the Governor’s desk. This debate has been going on for 13 years. That’s 13 years too long for many students who continue to have their lives ruined because of our inaction.

It’s time for Michigan legislators to get serious and pass a bill that would actually address these two issues. Our state is in need of legislation that will protect students from harassment and discrimination. Michigan is one of only three states without any sort of anti-bullying law on the books.

You can learn more about what states currently have passed safer schools legislation inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity by clicking here.

Including enumerated categories of protection – such as race, class, religion, disability and sex – should be a point of consensus among Michigan senators, not contention. Comprehensive anti-bullying policies ensure that all Michigan students are protected equally in school. In fact, students in school with enumerated anti-bullying policies report less incidents of bullying and harassment overall. They also report feeling safer at school. You can read more about these findings in the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey.

Michigan legislators should be doing everything they can to help make schools a safer place for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. We should be setting an example for our students, not lagging so far behind.

This isn’t a Republican issue. Nor is it a Democratic issue. It’s about education and the future success of every Michigan student, which is quite frankly, no laughing matter.

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