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Michigan bullying bill draws fire

  |   Nov. 7, 2011 at 7:34 PM
LANSING, Mich., Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Republican legislative leaders in Michigan said Monday they're reworking a bill critics say would allow children to bully others for religious or moral reasons.

The controversy started last Wednesday when state Senate Republicans took a measure requiring all school districts to implement anti-bullying policies and added language that schools could not prohibit "a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian."

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer called the amendment "a mistake" and called on House Speaker Jase Bolger Monday to fix it, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Ari Adler, a spokesman for Bolger, said his boss was working on a compromise to "bring everyone to the middle of the road and provide protection to all students."

"We are working on the situation to try to take care of the language in the Senate bill that the House Republicans cannot support," Adler said.

Democrats say they not only want the GOP lawmakers' language removed, but to strengthen its provisions.

Adler said his boss opposes bullying, but "does not support legislation that would enumerate specific groups for additional protection, nor does he support a bill that would provide an excuse for someone to bully someone else."

Whitmer called on Bolger to "bring Michigan up to date with what other states are already doing in passing comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that protects all of our students from bullying."

The bill was named for Matt Epling of East Lansing who committed suicide in 2002 after being bullied. His father, Kevin Epling, last week called the Republicans' addition to the bill "unconscionable" and "government-sanctioned bigotry."

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