If there were ever any doubts about the power of Michigan’s people to change the course of their Government, I think we can safely lay those to rest.
On November 2nd, the Michigan Senate Republicans passed their “license to bully” bill, legislation that actually authorized bullying of our schoolkids as long as long as it was based on “religious or moral convictions.”
News of this absurd action began to spread quickly from outraged students, parents and teachers. These voices started locally, but quickly spread globally as a video of Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer condemning the Republicans for their actions quickly went viral, with more than 400,000 people viewing it on various sites online. Facebook, Twitter and blogs were all lighting up with comments about the issue and the mainstream media would be soon to follow.
Time Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, MSNBC and many other news outlets, both nationally and internationally, picked up on the story with comments describing the Republicans’ legislation ranging from “despicable” to “laughable” to “the worst bill in the history of the universe.”
Even Stephen Colbert lambasted the Senate Republicans for their actions on The Colbert Report last week:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word – Bully Pulpit|
It was your posts on Facebook, your tweets and your outrage shared with others about why the Republicans’ actions were wrong that captured the media’s attention. It was your calls and your letters being sent to our legislators that made them realize the tremendous mistake they had made. And it was your personal stories about how bullying has had an impact on your life or that of your child that have resonated with people from around the world on this issue.
Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville felt it was more important to take a 2 week hunting break than to take action on this new bill and correct the mistake he made. That means our students will be forced to wait another 2 weeks without help from the bullying and harassment they endure. It also means that we must keep making our voices heard so that Senator Richardville doesn’t conveniently forget about the outrage over his actions that he’s heard in recent days.
This fight is not over yet, but let’s let this serve as an example that when we speak out as one, our voices carry volume that can’t be ignored. The Republicans may control the legislature, but they still answer to those that sent them to Lansing. Let’s make sure we remind them of that together.
Earlier today, Senate Republicans finally brought SB 137 up for a vote, legislation that would at long last get Michigan on board with what 47 states have already done in creating anti-bullying policies for our local schools to follow. While this is legislation our members have been calling on for months now, the Republicans snuck language into the bill that not only takes away from the impact of the legislation, it would actually make things worse:
“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 & parent or guardian.”
In less than 30 words, Republicans turned anti-bullying legislation into pro-bullying legislation. Essentially, instead of protecting Michigan’s students from harassment, it issues a license to bully. It tells our kids that when a bully screams hateful words on a daily basis at a student simply because they perceive them to be gay, that’s ok. It tells them that when prejudiced and even overtly racist slurs are shouted at a student simply because of who they are, that’s ok too.
This legislation doesn’t protect our students from bullying, it actually sanctions bullying in our school hallways and gives our students a blueprint on how to get away with it.
You can see Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer’s statement from the debate this morning condemning this ridiculous attack on our students below:
Senator Glenn Anderson and Senator Bert Johnson also spoke out against the Republicans’ actions.
Michigan’s school teachers have already faced their share of attacks from Governor Snyder and the Republican legislature this year. They have seen their pay slashed, their benefits cut, and hundreds of millions of dollars removed from our state’s K-12 funding.
More recently, teachers have seen Republicans introduce legislation that would allow districts to privatize their faculty positions, sacrificing the quality of our children’s education in favor of hiring whoever offers to do it the cheapest.
As if those efforts weren’t enough, today, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville spoke out in favor of creating a so-called “Right To Work” system for teachers, a plan that would further erode the support given to our school teachers by weakening their collective bargaining rights.
It’s time to tell Senator Richardville, Governor Snyder, and the rest of Michigan’s Republicans that enough is enough!
Earlier this year, Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer sent out an appeal asking for Michigan’s working families to tell Senator Richardville to oppose ANY attempts to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of our workers. That appeal is now more important than ever.
If this is Senator Richardville’s idea of a real solution to improve Michigan’s K-12 education, it certainly earns him an F. Michigan’s teachers and students deserve far better.