The Republican-led Michigan Senate passed a new bill requiring state school districts to implement anti-bullying policies, but one Democratic senator believes specifics of the legislation don't go far enough.
Known as Matt's Safe School Law, the bill effectively bans harassment in schools and requires every district to have an anti-bullying policy. The law was inspired by Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who committed suicide shortly after a hazing incident.
But in a stinging floor speech, Senator Gretchen Whitmer expressed her dissatisfaction with the new law, which is said to create a special exception for bullies who have "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction," as well as neglecting to protect to bullying against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity,
"You may be able to pat yourselves on the back today and say that you did something, but in actuality you are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying," said Senator Gretchen Whitmer. "As passed today, bullying kids is okay if a student, parent, teacher or school employee can come up with a moral or religious reason for doing it."
Also expressing distate with the new law is Epling's father Kevin. "This is government-sanctioned bigotry," Kevin is quoted by the Detroit Free Press as saying, who said he is "ashamed" that lawmakers added the special language at the last minute.
Watch Whitmer's speech below:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article identified Matt Epling as having been gay. His family has released a statement saying he was not gay.