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| AMP – November 7, 2011
Michigan’s ‘anti-bullying’ legislation allows bullying
The Michigan State Senate recently passed SB 137, dubbed an “anti-bullying bill,” which includes a clause that allows bullying through statements based on “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or pupil’s parent or guardian.”
The draft law, which passed the state Senate with 26 Republican votes against 11 Democratic votes and now advances to the lower house, includes language inserted before the vote that says the bill “does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held belief or moral conviction” of a student or school worker.
CAIR-MI has called on Michigan Muslims and other people of conscience to ask their state representatives to oppose pending legislation that allows bullying of children based on religious beliefs.
“While we believe in freedom of religious expression, the anti-bullying legislation set forth gives students and school employees leeway to bully Muslim children under the guise of stating religious beliefs and moral convictions,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.
The CAIR-MI said our educational institutions should encourage students to report all bullying instead of helping perpetuate the bystander effect and the “stop snitching” culture that pervades public schools in Michigan.
Islamophobic bullying in our schools
It may be pointed out that under the title, “Islamophobic bullying in our schools,” Huffington Post reported on October 24, 2011, the bullying case of a Muslim student, Omar.
Huffington Post reported Islamophobic remarks by Omar’s teacher in his yearbook:
“You boys were so much fun on the 8th grade trip! Thanks for not bombing anything while we were there!” read the yearbook inscription penned by the middle school teacher. The eighth grade yearbook was littered with similar remarks by classmates linking Omar to a “bomb.” ”To my bomb man!” read one note. “Come wire my bomb,” read another.
“What is this?” asked Omar’s mother incredulously. He had handed the yearbook over to her moments earlier when he arrived home that afternoon. Omar answered quietly, “I know, Mom, I know.” He stared down at the kitchen floor. His eyes could not meet his mother’s but he began to tell her what had happened just one month earlier.
The Post report said, in May 2009, Omar joined his classmates on a school trip to Washington, D.C. As they toured the Washington Monument, visited area museums and passed by the White House, the kids repeatedly told Omar they hoped he wouldn’t “bomb” any of the sites. A teacher chaperoned the children, heard the comments and responded by doing… well, nothing, except leave a denigrating remark in Omar’s yearbook a month later.
It was clear to Omar’s mother that her American born and raised son was harassed because of his Muslim faith and Arab ancestry.
Unfortunately, this was not the first bias-based bullying incident involving Omar that school year. Only several months earlier a peer was intimidating Omar, calling him a “terrorist,” during an elective trade course. Omar finally told his mother about the bullying when his report card indicated that he was failing that same class, while acing the others where he was not subjected to such humiliating treatment.
Matt’s Safe School Law
On the ‘anti-bullying’ legislation Washington Post reported on November 7, 2011:
The legislation, called “Matt’s Safe School Law,” was named after Matt Epling, an honor-roll student who killed himself at the age of 14 in 2002 after being assaulted by bullies at his school.
The boy’s father, Kevin Epling, posted a video to YouTube in which he says he is “ashamed” of the legislation and that it will create more strife in schools.
The law, he said, “would basically say it is okay to bully or to ignore instances of bullying based on your own religious beliefs and/or moral convictions, which is contrary to the rest of the bill and it is definitely contrary to what I’ve been telling students, to step in and step up when they see this taking place in their school. As a society, we need to decrease the bystander effect, those who sit idly by and watch as things happen.”
The added provision in the legislation, he said, would allow people to watch bullying happen to someone they think deserves it based on a religious or moral belief.
According to a Web site devoted to Matt Epling, the teenager was attacked by upperclassmen on his last day of eighth grade during a “Welcome to High School” hazing activity. Little was done to those who assaulted him at the time. Forty days later, he took his own life.
Bullying is a big problem across the country, according to Washington Post. Government statistics show that at least a third of students ages 12 to 18 report being bullied during the school year. Most states have a law that makes bullying illegal, but there is little enforcement.