Critics say new bill protects bullies - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Critics say new bill protects bullies

(WMC-TV) – Some people say a bill that will be introduced in the Tennessee legislature in the coming weeks gives students a license to bully if they back it up with their religious beliefs.

Now, the Tennessee Equality Project is bringing some attention to two bills it fears might create an unsafe situation for some students in school.

Michelle Bliss with the Tennessee Equality Project is worried about proposed Senate Bill 760, also known as the "License to Bully" Bill.

Bliss said the legislation creates a loophole in education policy that would give students permission to harass or bully their classmates when expressing religious or political views.

"If my child grows up to be gay, or bisexual, or even transgendered, if he's in school and he's being harassed and someone is coming up to him and saying ‘According to my church you're going to hell,' every single day, in between every single class period, in the lunchroom and then he can't go to teacher," said Bliss."

That's why Bliss said she's calling attention to the dangers of the bill.

"The way the bill is written, it would amend bullying to be only threats to harm the person or the property of the person being bullied," she said. "It protects the bully, not the victim."

A similar bill, Senate Bill 49, or the "Don't Say Gay" bill, has already been passed in the Senate and sent to a House education committee.

It requires that any instruction or materials made available or provided at or to a public elementary or middle school must be limited exclusively to natural human reproduction science.

"It limits the teacher's ability to address issues a student might want to discuss with them either in private or if they need counseling," Bliss said. "It limits the ability of a guidance counselor to talk to a student who might be having issues with his sexual orientation."

One state representative told Action News 5 that he did not feel comfortable commenting on the "License to Bully" bill since it still has not been introduced yet.

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