LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, announced Tuesday that the anti-bullying bill he worked on has now passed the House and the Senate. The legislation now awaits the governor’s signature.
Earlier this year, Jones and state Rep. Phil Potivin agreed to work together on a proposal requiring all Michigan schools to implement an anti-bullying policy. The lawmakers each had students in their districts commit suicide due to bullying, and they were committed to passing an anti-bullying measure.
“A terrible tragedy occurred in my district,” Jones said. “Chrystal Eaton, a student from Charlotte, was bullied, went to her grandfather’s house and used one of his guns to end her life.”
Jones had a personal connection to Chrystal. Her grandfather was Sgt. Arlo Eaton of the Eaton County Sheriff Department. Sgt. Eaton trained Jones when he was a 21-year-old deputy.
The issue of bullying has affected Jones in an even more personal way. Jones’ son, now 31, was injured at birth and grew up mentally challenged.
“Due to the fact the he was a special education student, the other kids picked on him,” Jones said. “As a parent and as a friend of a family that lost a child, I feel very strongly that every school should have a bullying policy.
Jones’ bill passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee. When it reached the Senate floor, a caucus attorney sought to clarify that nothing in the bill would stop a student’s first amendment rights to make a non-bullying statement.
In Howell, a student was removed from class when he made a statement that in his religion he did not believe in homosexual relations. He words were not threatening or directed at anyone; he was simply stating his opinion on the topic of the class discussion.
Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer described this legislation as a “license to bully.” This comment drew national media attention.
According the Michigan Messenger, Doug Laycock, a professor of law at University of Virginia and a first amendment specialist, disagrees with Whitmer that the legislation will allow students to bully.
“It is not reasonably interpreted to mean that one student can bully another,” Laycock was quoted as saying in the Michigan Messenger.
Jones added: “If the Senate minority leader had simply walked across the aisle and said she had 12 Democrat votes for the bill if the one line was removed, I would have worked to make it happen. Instead she twisted the legal meaning, manipulated the media, and got her 15 minutes of fame. She chose to be a politician and not a statesman and a parent. The national media bought it hook, line and sinker. In the end we accomplished our goal and I am happy to see years of hard work pay off.”