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State education chief blasts anti-bullying bill as ‘a joke’

Tribune News Service • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:12 AM

The bill — which came under attack Wednesday, even from the father whose son the bill was named after — would require school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

But the bill also has language that says requirements don’t “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.”

The bill passed along party-lines Wednesday, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats voting no.

Flanagan said in a statement Thursday afternoon that there should never be an excuse, reason or justification for anyone to bully, intimidate or harass a student.

“I cannot imagine any real moral conviction or religious teaching that says it is acceptable to inflict pain, humiliation and suffering on another person, especially a child,” he said.

The bill — dubbed Matt’s Law — was named after Matt Epling, an East Lansing teen who killed himself in 2002 after being bullied. His father, Kevin Epling, criticized the language on Wednesday.

“After my long relationship with families of children who have committed suicide after being bullied, I find this bill now to be a joke — especially as it is named in memory of one of those children,” Flanagan said.

— By Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press (MCT)

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