Bullying legislation in Michigan;

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Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Gellert1984 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 11:45 am UTC

Link

Spoiler:
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 an anti-gay 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.


TL;DR: Michegan passes and anti-bullying piece of lagislation that allows bullies a free pass if they bully for 'a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction', y'know like all muslims are suicide bombers, LGBT folks are the spawn of satan, Irishmen can't be trusted...
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Chen » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:28 pm UTC

So from several blog sites I found the text of the bill: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents ... B-0045.pdf

And it doesn't include anything like what people are getting up in arms about. Am I missing something here? The bill linked above seems quite good. Does it not include this "last minute" wording? If so I'd like to see where this last minute wording actually enters into things.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby The Reaper » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:43 pm UTC

Michigan
ftfy.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby clockworkmonk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:58 pm UTC

Chen wrote:So from several blog sites I found the text of the bill: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents ... B-0045.pdf

And it doesn't include anything like what people are getting up in arms about. Am I missing something here? The bill linked above seems quite good. Does it not include this "last minute" wording? If so I'd like to see where this last minute wording actually enters into things.


thats an old version of the bill, the current one is
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billengrossed/Senate/pdf/2011-SEBS-0137.pdf

start reading at line 25 of page 5 for the relevant bit.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:53 pm UTC

The bill doesn't seem to allow physical bullying for religious or moral reasons, but verbal abuse is perfectly acceptable if the bully holds a "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction." So, for example, telling a gay person that he's going to hell and deserves to because he's an immoral, horrible person is totally acceptable.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Heisenberg » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:56 pm UTC

clockworkmonk wrote:start reading at line 25 of page 5 for the relevant bit.

So they specifically outlined that stating a religious belief is not bullying. So me saying "God doesn't exist" is not bullying, and is specifically protected by the 1st amendment. But me punching ginger kids in the face because the FSM told me to do it is not protected, because that's gone further than a "statement of religious belief."

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Decker » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:59 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:The bill doesn't seem to allow physical bullying for religious or moral reasons, but verbal abuse is perfectly acceptable if the bully holds a "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction." So, for example, telling a gay person that he's going to hell and deserves to because he's an immoral, horrible person is totally acceptable.

Sometime I wish people would have just beat me up once in a while instead of ostracizing me, pressure people who used to be my friends to ostracize me, spreading nasty rumors about me, and basically tormenting me every day of the goddamn week.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:12 pm UTC

I think until recently, the effects of verbal abuse were severely underestimated. But now there have been a few publicized suicides :|

My dad is rather pleased with society's increased awareness and intolerance of bullying, but notes that it's become largely a gay thing. My dad was beaten for being a nerd I guess, and he notes that just regular old nerd bullying is being ignored. Mind you, it's possible that doesn't really happen any more.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Decker » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:13 pm UTC

As of six years ago, not liking sports was still a punishable offense in my high school.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Heisenberg » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:15 pm UTC

This is kind of dumb, because a quick read of the law suggests that it simply requires all schools to have some sort of policy on bullying, and that they should record incidents of bullying and report them to the school board.

Ultimately, this law is just window dressing and will have no real effect on bullying.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:22 pm UTC

Decker wrote:As of six years ago, not liking sports was still a punishable offense in my high school.

I went to an arts school. It's possible that not liking sports was mandatory there. Also, it wasn't exactly the kind of place that would bully a person for being gay. Again, it was an arts school.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Decker » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:27 pm UTC

I went to a catholic, all boys high school.
It was...an experience.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:38 pm UTC

So, are catholic schools as bad as people say? I know they were when my mom went to one (before she converted to Judaism), but that was in the 70s.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby DSenette » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:47 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:So, are catholic schools as bad as people say? I know they were when my mom went to one (before she converted to Judaism), but that was in the 70s.

depends on what you mean by "bad", "people", and "say"

i went to catholic school my entire school life (preK to 12th) and the school experience itself wasn't anything to complain about. the education wasn't stellar, but it was a small school in a small town.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Dauric » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:48 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:This is kind of dumb, because a quick read of the law suggests that it simply requires all schools to have some sort of policy on bullying, and that they should record incidents of bullying and report them to the school board.

Ultimately, this law is just window dressing and will have no real effect on bullying.


The statute itself is stronger worded than that. The schools have to report to parents of the bullied and the bully that the situation is happening. The policies also have to specify punishments and/or possible remediation for the situation. Policies also have to have punishments for instructors or staff that are aware of the situation but turn a blind eye towards it.

Now what actual school policies will be may effectively neuter that language (a staff member's punishment for turning a blind eye will be they ave to put a penny in the "Bullying Jar"), but that's more a reflection of the individual schools and/or school boards.

The thing is that there's really no tried-and-true methods of dealing with bullying in the public school system. To lay out specific legislation that details what the policy will be in detail would more likely than not enshrine a lot of clearly wrong ways of dealing with the issue. By saying that schools have to have a policy -of some kind- allows schools to experiment with different policies, and the reporting to the school districts about incidents of bullying it's possible to gather some concrete data about varying techniques and the efficacy thereof.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby kiklion » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:56 pm UTC

I went to an all boys catholic H.S (my choice) for half a year. It was supposed to be one of the best H.S's on the island and there is definitely and 'old boys club' of graduates, but the education was sub-par, commute was long, classes were over-crowded, and the general population were privileged kids who talked down to the faculty. Now I was an athletic, fairly well adjusted person and got along fine with most of the students there. But I didn't like them. They would often lock other kids in bathrooms or push them down stairs, put stoppers in peoples lockers as they were walking away to keep them open to steal from them. They just didn't do it to me.

Back on topic because of religion is protected, I think they added that to head off people arguing that their child should be allowed to state their beliefs. You make it illegal for me to say "I'm christian and I believe that gays will burn in hell" you are coming awfully close to censoring religions. As long as the subject of the sentence is the person speaking, it wouldn't be classified as bullying. At least as I read it.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Decker » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:59 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:So, are catholic schools as bad as people say? I know they were when my mom went to one (before she converted to Judaism), but that was in the 70s.

I really think it had more to do with the "all boys" part of it in my case. Catholic schools are like people. Most of them are alright, but you always get the few that everyone hears about.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby DSenette » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:59 pm UTC

kiklion wrote:I went to an all boys catholic H.S (my choice) for half a year. It was supposed to be one of the best H.S's on the island and there is definitely and 'old boys club' of graduates, but the education was sub-par, commute was long, classes were over-crowded, and the general population were privileged kids who talked down to the faculty. Now I was an athletic, fairly well adjusted person and got along fine with most of the students there. But I didn't like them. They would often lock other kids in bathrooms or push them down stairs, put stoppers in peoples lockers as they were walking away to keep them open to steal from them. They just didn't do it to me.

Back on topic because of religion is protected, I think they added that to head off people arguing that their child should be allowed to state their beliefs. You make it illegal for me to say "I'm christian and I believe that gays will burn in hell" you are coming awfully close to censoring religions. As long as the subject of the sentence is the person speaking, it wouldn't be classified as bullying. At least as I read it.

i believe that all the mothers of people who choose the name kiklion on web forums that are the result of poorly drawn web comics are trollops and that they should be beaten within an inch of their lives every day for the rest of their lives.

so, yeah, if i say that really close to you every day, and make sure that YOU specifically hear that statement EVERY day, that's totally not bullying, i'm just expressing my own beliefs.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Dauric » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:10 pm UTC

Yeah, the exemption for religion is... badly written at best.

THIS SECTION DOES NOT ABRIDGE THE RIGHTS UNDER THE FIRST
AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OR UNDER ARTICLE
I OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION OF 1963 OF A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE, SCHOOL
VOLUNTEER, PUPIL, OR A PUPIL'S PARENT OR GUARDIAN. THIS SECTION
DOES 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.


(Gah, why do statues need to be written in all caps? The cynic in me says it's to exploit their unreadability)

If I'm reading it correctly, as stated it overrides the entire statute as long as religious belief is involved in the statements. It needs to have language to the effect "....except where such statements of religious belief can be reasonably construed to be harassment or bullying." Or something like that. IANAL, so replace my line with whatever necessary legalese to get the idea across.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michegan;

Postby Chen » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:21 pm UTC

I don't like the fact they removed item iv) from the old definition of bullying. I mean the rest of of the clean up to that definition was good but not removing that last bullet.

Spoiler:
(B) "BULLYING" MEANS CONDUCT, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO CONDUCT IN PERSON OR USING A TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACCESS DEVICE, THAT MEETS ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:
(i) IS DIRECTED AT 1 OR MORE PUPILS.
(ii) SUBSTANTIALLY INTERFERES WITH EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES, BENEFITS, OR PROGRAMS OF 1 OR MORE PUPILS.
(iii) ADVERSELY AFFECTS THE ABILITY OF A PUPIL TO PARTICIPATE IN OR BENEFIT FROM THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S OR PUBLIC SCHOOL'S EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS OR ACTIVITIES BY PLACING THE PUPIL IN REASONABLE FEAR OF PHYSICAL HARM OR BY CAUSING EMOTIONAL DISTRESS.
(iv) IS BASED ON A PUPIL'S ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, RACE, COLOR, NATIONAL ORIGIN, AGE, SEX, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, DISABILITY, HEIGHT, WEIGHT, GENDER IDENTITY, SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS, OR ANY OTHER DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OR IS BASED ON ASSOCIATION WITH ANOTHER PERSON WHO HAS OR IS PERCEIVED TO HAVE ANY OF THESE CHARACTERISTICS.


New definition
Spoiler:
(B) "BULLYING" MEANS ANY WRITTEN, VERBAL, OR PHYSICAL ACT, OR ANY ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION, BY A PUPIL DIRECTED AT 1 OR MORE OTHER PUPILS THAT IS INTENDED OR THAT A REASONABLE PERSON WOULD KNOW IS LIKELY TO HARM 1 OR MORE PUPILS EITHER DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY BY DOING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(i) SUBSTANTIALLY INTERFERING WITH EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES, BENEFITS, OR PROGRAMS OF 1 OR MORE PUPILS.
(ii) SUBSTANTIALLY AND ADVERSELY AFFECTING THE ABILITY OF A PUPIL TO PARTICIPATE IN OR BENEFIT FROM THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S OR PUBLIC SCHOOL'S EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS OR ACTIVITIES BY PLACING THE PUPIL IN REASONABLE FEAR OF PHYSICAL HARM.
(iii) HAVING AN ACTUAL AND SUBSTANTIAL DETRIMENTAL EFFECT ON A PUPIL'S PHYSICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH OR CAUSING SUBSTANTIAL EMOTIONAL DISTRESS.
(iv) CAUSING SUBSTANTIAL DISRUPTION IN, OR SUBSTANTIAL INTERFERENCE WITH, THE ORDERLY OPERATION OF THE SCHOOL.


The paragraph people are complaining about is certainly problematic. It does appear to allow bullying if said bullying is religiously protected speech (or some such). One would presume general harassment laws prevent this from being a problem in other situations (outside of school). It looks somewhat like an attempt to avoid the risk of impeding freedom of speech, but that doesn't seem necessary and more detrimental in fact.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Triangle_Man » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:27 pm UTC

So I'm guessing that this new legislation basically allows bullies to site religion as justification to hate other people?

Is this going to protect all 'expression of religious belief' or just the ones involving Christianity? Because it would seem a tad hypocritical if people condemned, say, Muslims for making statements about their sincere religious beliefs as being hateful (such as 'the infidels should burn in hell') yet give Christians a free pass for making similar statements (such as 'people who don't believe in Jesus should burn in hell').
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Dauric » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:39 pm UTC

Triangle_Man wrote:So I'm guessing that this new legislation basically allows bullies to site religion as justification to hate other people?

Is this going to protect all 'expression of religious belief' or just the ones involving Christianity? Because it would seem a tad hypocritical if people condemned, say, Muslims for making statements about their sincere religious beliefs as being hateful (such as 'the infidels should burn in hell') yet give Christians a free pass for making similar statements (such as 'people who don't believe in Jesus should burn in hell').


I think the religious exemption is a case of someone inserting boilerplate 1'st amendment language in to the bill and nobody actually gave it this much thought (even though it clearly needs it). Also if they had edited the boilerplate language you'd probably have had the conservative legislators up in arms about 'exemptions to protected religious speech'. Though the point is that religious speech, like any other speech, is not uniformly protected in the first place.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby DSenette » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:40 pm UTC

Triangle_Man wrote:So I'm guessing that this new legislation basically allows bullies to site religion as justification to hate other people?

Is this going to protect all 'expression of religious belief' or just the ones involving Christianity? Because it would seem a tad hypocritical if people condemned, say, Muslims for making statements about their sincere religious beliefs as being hateful (such as 'the infidels should burn in hell') yet give Christians a free pass for making similar statements (such as 'people who don't believe in Jesus should burn in hell').

based on text, yes. based on how "protected religious speech" is actually executed in the U.S. probably not
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:42 pm UTC

Triangle_Man wrote:Is this going to protect all 'expression of religious belief' or just the ones involving Christianity? Because it would seem a tad hypocritical if people condemned, say, Muslims for making statements about their sincere religious beliefs as being hateful (such as 'the infidels should burn in hell') yet give Christians a free pass for making similar statements (such as 'people who don't believe in Jesus should burn in hell').


The problem is that if you insult a Christian, they are morally justified to get you mauled by bears (2 Kings 2:23-24).

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby DSenette » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:43 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Triangle_Man wrote:Is this going to protect all 'expression of religious belief' or just the ones involving Christianity? Because it would seem a tad hypocritical if people condemned, say, Muslims for making statements about their sincere religious beliefs as being hateful (such as 'the infidels should burn in hell') yet give Christians a free pass for making similar statements (such as 'people who don't believe in Jesus should burn in hell').


The problem is that if you insult a Christian, they are morally justified to get you mauled by bears (2 Kings 2:23-24).

only if they're she bears
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Triangle_Man » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:45 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Triangle_Man wrote:Is this going to protect all 'expression of religious belief' or just the ones involving Christianity? Because it would seem a tad hypocritical if people condemned, say, Muslims for making statements about their sincere religious beliefs as being hateful (such as 'the infidels should burn in hell') yet give Christians a free pass for making similar statements (such as 'people who don't believe in Jesus should burn in hell').


The problem is that if you insult a Christian, they are morally justified to get you mauled by bears (2 Kings 2:23-24).

And people complain about the media/the Muslim religion being violent...
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby ShootTheChicken » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:48 pm UTC

Are people pretending Christianity isn't a violent religion?
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Arrian » Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

DSenette wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:The problem is that if you insult a Christian, they are morally justified to get you mauled by bears (2 Kings 2:23-24).

only if they're she bears


Man, what level do I have to be to get the "Summon: Child Mauling She Bear" spell? I've been grinding Christian rep all my life, but no luck so far. Of course, Kings is Old Testament, so maybe I flubbed by going for the Lutheran instead of the Jewish specialization?

Chen wrote:The paragraph people are complaining about is certainly problematic. It does appear to allow bullying if said bullying is religiously protected speech (or some such). One would presume general harassment laws prevent this from being a problem in other situations (outside of school). It looks somewhat like an attempt to avoid the risk of impeding freedom of speech, but that doesn't seem necessary and more detrimental in fact.


I think you have it backwards, especially about the harassment laws thing. The government has much more leeway to restrict speech in schools than it does anywhere else, so general harassent laws won't apply, either. In fact, a restriction against verbal abuse including religious statements probably ONLY stands a chance of surviving legal review if it's restricted to schools. The Supreme court gave the government much wider powers to regulate speech in school through Tinker v. Des Moines, but even Supreme Court case law isn't a great defense against the plain language of the First Amendment. So, I think there's a reasonable chance that this law could be thrown out as unconstitutional if someone tried to apply it in a "God hates fags" type situation. In that sense, the exception is reasonable: It's intentionally avoiding a fight the legislature doesn't know if it can win.

I was going to say that this is another example of "Beware of laws named after victims," but was pleasantly surprised. It might still not be a good law, but at least it's leaving up enforcement to individual school systems and isn't further criminalizing children.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Garm » Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:37 pm UTC

Seems to me the changes to this bill is just saying that you can hate in the name of God. What does that really say about the Michigan GOP's perspective on religion?
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Arrian » Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:49 pm UTC

Garm wrote:Seems to me the changes to this bill is just saying that you can hate in the name of God. What does that really say about the Michigan GOP's perspective on religion?


That they actually accept the fact that they're bound by the US and Michigan Constitutions, maybe?

Michigan Constitution, Article 1 Sections 4 & 5 wrote:4 Freedom of worship and religious belief; appropriations.
Sec. 4. Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own
conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his consent, to contribute to the
erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay tithes, taxes or other rates for
the support of any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion. No money shall be appropriated
or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or
religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such
purpose. The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished
or enlarged on account of his religious belief.

5 Freedom of speech and of press.
Sec. 5. Every person may freely speak, write, express and publish his views on all subjects,
being responsible for the abuse of such right; and no law shall be enacted to restrain or abridge
the liberty of speech or of the press.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:50 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:
Michigan Constitution, Article 1 Sections 4 & 5 wrote:4 Freedom of worship and religious belief; appropriations.
Sec. 4. Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own
conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his consent, to contribute to the
erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay tithes, taxes or other rates for
the support of any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion. No money shall be appropriated
or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or
religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such
purpose.
The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished
or enlarged on account of his religious belief.


Does this mean that churches don't have tax-exempt status in Michigan?

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby kiklion » Fri Nov 04, 2011 4:54 pm UTC

Duno where your reading that. It seems to me 'youto wont be forced to support any church. You wont be taxed to support any church. The treasury will not be used to give funds to any church. Land wont be given to any church'

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LaserGuy
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:05 pm UTC

kiklion wrote:Duno where your reading that. It seems to me 'youto wont be forced to support any church. You wont be taxed to support any church. The treasury will not be used to give funds to any church. Land wont be given to any church'


Tax exempt status is functionally equivalent to giving the church money.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby juststrange » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:06 pm UTC

Chen wrote:I don't like the fact they removed item iv) from the old definition of bullying. I mean the rest of of the clean up to that definition was good but not removing that last bullet.


I don't understand. My understanding is that by removing that last paragraph, they are casting a larger blanket, not a smaller one. Before, the school had to be able to identify something from the list of protected traits before it was counted as bullying. Now things that may have been missed on that list, but that could cause bullying, won't fall through the cracks.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Garm » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:11 pm UTC

@Arrian: The flipside to freedom of religion is freedom from religion. If you're allowing people to bully in the name of their God then I think you're creating a class of protected speech based on religion.
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby clockworkmonk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:16 pm UTC

juststrange wrote:
Chen wrote:I don't like the fact they removed item iv) from the old definition of bullying. I mean the rest of of the clean up to that definition was good but not removing that last bullet.


I don't understand. My understanding is that by removing that last paragraph, they are casting a larger blanket, not a smaller one. Before, the school had to be able to identify something from the list of protected traits before it was counted as bullying. Now things that may have been missed on that list, but that could cause bullying, won't fall through the cracks.


lets look at the list removed.
the bill wrote: IS BASED ON A PUPIL'S ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, RACE, COLOR, NATIONAL ORIGIN, AGE, SEX, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, DISABILITY, HEIGHT, WEIGHT, GENDER IDENTITY, SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS, OR ANY OTHER DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OR IS BASED ON ASSOCIATION WITH ANOTHER PERSON WHO HAS OR IS PERCEIVED TO HAVE ANY OF THESE CHARACTERISTICS.


the list specifies several very common features people are bullied for and then allows more with the "Or any other distinguishing characteristic" bit. this makes it easy to classify anything meeting the specific criteria as bullying while allowing other things to be included on a case-by-case basis. the removal of this allows more leeway, essentially making everything a case-by-case, which can be problematic when staff assessing bullying are not restrained to a specific list of criteria, and happen to share beliefs with the bully.

tl;dr, the new wording makes it easier to ignore bullying by omitting a list of criteria.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby juststrange » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:29 pm UTC

Clockwork, there is a distinction to be made here. Removing a requirement will cause more things to fall under the definition of bullying, as it is less narrowly defined (for better or worse). If I understand it, you are arguing that without that list, administrators won't know what to look for in the first place, and therefore will be less likely to catch bulllies.

I think my mistake here was assuming school admins are capable of making sound, consistent, judgement calls. If we assume they can't\won't for whatever reason, then I certainly understand what you are getting at.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby clockworkmonk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:34 pm UTC

no, I'm saying without that list, they will be more inclined to ignore bullying in line with their own personal bias. That the list protects people being bullied from more bullying by staff. I'm not saying this is common, or even a large problem, but it has and does happen.

The specific list allows an easier legal path if the law is broken, by being able to point out where specifically it was broken, and clearly say how. Its not guidelines for the schools, its for when schools don't make sound calls.
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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Chen » Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:44 pm UTC

clockworkmonk wrote:The specific list allows an easier legal path if the law is broken, by being able to point out where specifically it was broken, and clearly say how. Its not guidelines for the schools, its for when schools don't make sound calls.


The list would also have helped deal with that whole religious freedoms paragraph. You can still state your religious freedoms but it could still be considered bullying if you're causing problems based on it. Now, along with that paragraph there is a lot of broad interpretation that can be done by administrators which can let things that were certainly bullying before, possibly fall to the wayside now.

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Re: Bullying legislation in Michigan;

Postby Arrian » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:11 pm UTC

Garm wrote:@Arrian: The flipside to freedom of religion is freedom from religion. If you're allowing people to bully in the name of their God then I think you're creating a class of protected speech based on religion.


The atheistic alternative is also protected: "You're a superstitious idjit because you believe in fairy tales about child mauling she bears!"

More importantly, though, is your concept of a special class of protected speech. I think you have that backwards, ALL speech is protected by default. There are some classes of speech that lose that protection (fighting words, perjury, slander and libel, and disruptive speech in schools, for example) but the default is that speech is protective. Even cruel, hateful, abusive speech.

My default position is that anti-bullying laws shouldn't include provisions about verbal abuse. Schools are a special case that warrant consideration since we use the weight of government to force students to interact with each other, we have the responsibility to keep the situation safe and non-abusive. But I'm not totally sold on the concept of applying these laws to speech, especially if it means criminalizing speech.

I think schools should prevent any type of bullying and punish bad behavior, but I don't think the law should be involved for the most part. Involving the law makes two problems: It creates a set of rules that have to be explicitly broken to be enforced, meaning schools can't take an "I know it when I see it" approach to identifying bullying, and also criminalizing something creates significant, often disproportionate penalties when enforced.

The problem with explicit rules is that children (adults, too, see the corporate tax thread) learn how to follow the letter without actually complying with the rule. A law can't be structured in a way that says "don't be mean." (Think of all the conditionals required, so many actions can be good or bad depending on the contect. The law can't take all contexts into account.) But if you leave enforecement up to teachers, they can train the children in the norms of a civil society without being constrained by a limited list of verboten activities but no standing to enforce the overarching principle if an activity doesn't fit on the list. Of course, teachers can only be tertiary at this, parents have a much stronger influence, and peer groups have an even stronger influence, which makes enforcing anti-bullying through laws that can only impact at-school behavior even more problematic.

On the criminalization point, if a teacher can deal with a bully by not letting him go on recess, that's a relatively minor punishment that can be enforced without much concern. When a formal complaint against a bully can result in criminal charges, meaning that student might end up not being able to go to college or get a decent job in the future, the teacher will be much more conservative in enforcing it. Was bullying more or less of a problem a couple of generations ago before there were laws directing all the minutia of school activity, literally to the point of defining where teachers can and cannot store empty boxes?

tldr version: I'm in favor of schools informally, administratively intervening to prevent bullying, including punishing children for verbal abuse regardless of how the statements are structured. I am against making laws that criminalize speech, no matter how abhorrent, abusive or hateful. Finally, I think the current legal system has made it impossible for schools to act sanely in dealing with children, forcing them to act like a court system where rules have to be enforces based on their wording, not meaning, and discretion is removed.


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