Last week, the Michigan Senate approved an anti-bullying law that aimed to crack down on the problem of bullying in schools by making it illegal and clearly punishable by law. For those of us actively working towards increasing awareness of bullying practices and the serious, long-term effects that these actions have, this is amazing progress.
However, much to the dismay of several anti-bullying advocates, this law came with one, very important provision in its last paragraph. It states:
This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States or under Article 1 of the state Constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteers, 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
In layman’s terms this law allows for bullying to take place as long as the comments expressed by the bully are a product of so-called, “sincerely held religious belief.”
“If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…”
As an educator, a parent, and human being committed to the philosophy of “live and let live,” this appalls me in more than one way. To say that my child or any child for that matter can be ostracized for something just because someone else doesn’t believe it is “moral” is to completely disregard the entire spirit of the anti-bullying movement.
Bullying is not okay for any reason, and, as my father used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is true even if you really, really believe what you have to say.
When Is It Okay to Bully?
While many parents and advocates have seen this measure as holding a direct correlation to sexuality-based bullying (i.e. LGTB issues) and there is a clear outcry about discrimination on that front, my concern is with the message that this sends to those most closely involved – our children.
Sadly, we are left with only one important question here: When is it okay to bully?