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Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor students attract 50,000-plus to online anti-bullying petition

By Paula Gardner


Katy Butler, a junior at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, wants people across the U.S. to sign her online petition against Michigan's anti-bullying legislation. The version passed by the state Senate, she said, gives people license to bully kids based on sexual orientation.

Melanie Maxwell |

Two Ann Arbor teens are using their own experiences as targets of school bullies to lead an online petition against pending legislation in Michigan that they call a "blueprint for bullies."

As of Thursday morning, the effort through had attracted more than 53,300 signatures.

Katy Butler, a 16-year-old, said she's endured shoving, harsh name-calling, and an incident where her hand was slammed in a locker door, according to Her friend Carson Borbely, a 13-year-old eighth grader in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, identifies as a transgendered male and says he's been subjected to repeated harassment.

The pair met at Ann Arbor's Neutral Zone, Butler said Thursday morning. Their shared experiences made them react in a similar way when they learned the Michigan Senate had approved anti-bullying legislation early this month that included an exemption for people who say their behavior is founded on a religious or moral conviction.

Then last week, the state House approved legislation that removes that provision, but it's unclear what the final bill will say. The House bill moves to the Senate, and both need to approve it before it moves to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk for a signature.

Butler said the initial legislation allowed people to target gays.

"That's not right," she said. ".... We feel really unprotected under that."

Her goal now, she said, is to keep that language out of the final bill that passes.

Beyond that, she said she hopes anti-bullying legislation can list examples of who’s not allowed to be bullied and set consequences for people who do bully.

"I'm looking for it to be a learning process," she said. "I don't want every single person to be punished. That's unrealistic.

"But if someone gets punished for saying 'that’s so gay' or beats someone up, I want education on why that’s not OK."

Butler, now a junior at Greenhills, endured much of the bullying in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, she said.

The bullying targeted her sexual orientation, with middle school classmates calling her anti-gay slurs as she was recognizing that she was a lesbian.

The adults around the situation, she said, didn't help. "I felt like they didn't even know it was going on."

She's not bullied today, but recognizes that not all of her classmates are supportive. Teachers, however, are, and they set the tone.

As she considers what schools will be like for students under anti-bullying legislation, "I think the biggest problem is going to be ignorance."

Butler is prepared to keep the issue in front of the public, and she's getting support from to do that as she urges people to pressure lawmakers to approve legislation that doesn't exclude her or other students who are targeted for attacks based on sexual orientation.

"We'll keep going as long as it takes," she said. "It if could happen by tomorrow, that would be phenomenal."

Paula Gardner is news director at She can be reached by email or followed on Twitter.


kate roesch

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

As members of the Social Justice Team at Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, we want to send our heart-felt support for the petition Katy and Carson have created asking the Michigan Legislature to pass a real anti-bullying bill. We applaud your efforts and commitment to this important issue that affects so many students. We look forward to a time when every student can feel safe in school and find the support they need if faced with bullying from other students.

Trek Glowacki

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

'But simply uttering "that's so gay" is not bullying' 'I find it troubling that she equates someone saying "that's so gay"' I can't tell if that notion is so Black or just incredibly Jewish, but I do know I have a moral obligation to point it out, so Olly olly oxen free!

Trek Glowacki

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

alarictoo, you go back and endure a childhood hearing an adjective that describes you used synonymously with "bad" and maybe we'll have some common ground for a discussion about that. Until then, stand down and hear people who have personal perspective on the topic. It's awful, insulting, and damaging on levels that many teens can only escape by taking their own lives. My school was pretty hands-off on the issue and I had to *wreck* a dude to make it clear that while the school didn't care much, bullying me came at the demonstrable cost of a broken nose and the shame of a pretty sound beating by a "[word won't let me say]" In the meantime, we can all at least mutually acknowledge that speech with "reckless or malicious intent" hasn't been protected for quite some time. Speech without communicative intent intended to be harmful or abusive has to meet much higher standard to merit protection.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Hmmmm... Perhaps "That's so caucasian" or "That's so euro-trash". Still just a lot of hyperbole for turning constitutionally protected free speech into "bullying".


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

The section of the legislation that is giving people the heebie-jeebies (including AAPS's new superintendent) reads as follows: &quot;8) THIS SECTION DOES NOT ABRIDGE THE RIGHTS UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OR UNDER ARTICLE I OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION OF 1963 OF A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE, SCHOOL VOLUNTEER, PUPIL, 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.&quot; All it does is state that this legislation does NOT infringe upon constitutionally protected free speech. Apparently that is not acceptable for today's thought police of political correctness. Make sure that you know what the actual legislation says before you sign these petitions, please. I would have thought that a thorough, unbiased article on this legislation would have included the thame of the bill, Senate Bill No. 137 (SB 137), and a link to the bill's actual language: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I should have known better than to expect that by now, I guess.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

Here is the portion of the Bill that defines &quot;bullying&quot;: &quot;(b) &quot;Bullying&quot; means any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, by a pupil directed at 1 or more other pupils that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm 1 or more pupils either directly or indirectly by doing any of the following: (i) Substantially interfering with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of 1 or more pupils. (ii) Substantially and adversely affecting the ability of a pupil to participate in or benefit from the school district's or public school's educational programs or activities by placing the pupil in reasonable fear of physical harm. (iii) Having an actual and substantial detrimental effect on a pupil's physical or mental health or causing substantial emotional distress. (iv) Causing substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.&quot; Most of this seems to be very reasonable. The only area I question is under section (iii), which says: &quot;Having an actual and substantial detrimental effect on a pupil's... mental health or causing substantial emotional distress.&quot; The terms seem extremely broad, and easily misinterpreted. In no way do I wish to belittle the idea of bullying, nor of the life saturation that cyber bullying brings to the table. I spent a good deal of time being bullied, in some cases to extremes when I was younger, and I am very familiar with the scars that it can bring. But, without the verbiage of section 8, this bill is worded so broadly that constitutional rights are at risk. That is simply not acceptable.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

TO: Mike, Orwell and Charlie Brown - Students in public schools do NOT have the same free speech rights enjoyed by adults, writ large (see case law below). Passing laws to allow bullying based on 'moral' grounds is, one, idiotic, and two, opens the door to harassment and violations of civil rights. Since when is it a good idea to codify a youth's right to break civil/federal laws? Michigan legislatures seek the glory of headlines more than they seek to serve the common good (as in what's good for most Michiganders, not just the morally hateful). Michigan legislatures need to stop biding their time with such unnecessary pursuits at tax payer expense - got to save that money for our education budget, right? MORSE et al. v. FREDERICK (2007) - The United States court of appeals for the ninth circuit decided the constitutional rights of students in school settings are NOT coextensive with the rights of adults. Prior cases with same message: Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Community School District (1969) Papish v. Bd. of Curators of the Univ. of Missouri (1973) Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser (1986) Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

Youth also don't have the right to bear arms or vote but somehow - our constitution has survived the usurping.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

Look at the text of the bill in the link I have posted in the comments. The language in question also protects the constitutionally guaranteed free speech of adults.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

&quot;MORSE et al. v. FREDERICK (2007) - The United States court of appeals for the ninth circuit decided the constitutional rights of students in school settings are NOT coextensive with the rights of adults....&quot; so basically that is saying that children do not have constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of religion. That seems dangerous. That is the children are indoctrinated early into stifiling those things. from the prespective of the side that wants to do this, &quot;start 'em early&quot;


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

Hey libs. This bill you're so big on is would be a great tool in the hands of someone like Michigan AG Bill Schuette or others of his type. Then the next time one of your mobs tries to shout down a political opponent we can by law reclassify what you do as &quot;bullying&quot; and start asking for court injunctions, fines, and hauling protesters off to jail. And all perfectly legal too. Can't have all this hate speech bullying people now can we?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

And if US troops are mean to bomb throwers in Afghanistan, that would prove your point? Come on. We're talking about kids in school having a right to a comfortable setting in which to learn. How about taking a little time and reading up on the importance of a supportive environment in the schools being basic to good learning? If nothing else, how about you stick to the subject?

K Thompson

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:38 a.m.

Nothing about this in the article. False logic here too &gt; getting way off the subject.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Maybe the liberals should pass a bill for groups like OWS, aren't they in a sense creating an environment where they are being aggressive and violent towards police officers, isn't that bullying? I guess assaulting an officer for failing to comply with the law is Ok, but heaven forbid should you yell obscentities or throw items at them?

K Thompson

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:36 a.m.

More non sequiturs and false logic. &quot;Don't beat up other kids.&quot; Is that simple enough for you?

Tony Livingston

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

I love these free speech advocates. While a high school girl has the courage to speak up, use her real name and even picture, the free speech set hides behind pen names. Katy has the right attitude, by far.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:08 a.m.

Some day Katy might have children and one of them might say something stupid. They may then possibly be kicked out of school, fined, sent to jail, charged with a hate crime, or whatever else the PC crowd comes up with by then. She might feel differently when it is her family or friends who are being punished to the fullest extent of the law for being stupid. Right now she serves a purpose for

G. Orwell

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:32 a.m.

How did we handled bullyng during the past 200 plus years? Why do we need a new law for it now? Can't we do a simple educational campaign informing students not to bully and prove councilors? Compared to 20-30 years ago, i see far less discrimination in schools. We did not need a new law to accomplish this. Do we really need a law for this, or is bullying being used to stifle free speech and to suppress students from expressing themselves.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:32 a.m.

&quot;And, LGBT kids are often also subjected to profoundly negative messages in church, in boy scouts, and other places including family members....&quot; *Insert rolly eyes* people have the right to feel about LGBT how they want to and certainly a church preaches the Word about it. Family members can either accept or not accept a livestyle of a family member. They shouldn't be shamed into submission of accepting it (for whatever reason). The LGBT community needs to accept the fact that people in the world don't NEED to accept them or approve (or not DISapprove) and get over it, just like they don't need to accept anyone for any reason. LGBT people are not more special than another group, don't need special considerations, protections or special inclusions. as for bullying can occure 24/7, 365 days, well yes it can. BUT adults need to be monitoring their children online (and maybe limiting it!) get them to put their cellphones down and sit at the dinner table more.

Linda Diane Feldt

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:53 a.m.

One of the differences now is that bullying can occur 24/7, 365 days a year through social networking and other on line assaults. And, LGBT kids are often also subjected to profoundly negative messages in church, in boy scouts, and other places including family members. So times are different, I believe things are more intense for students now than before in some subtle ways as well as a lot that has persisted form the past. I've taught part time for a long time in two Ann Arbor High Schools. Ann Arbor does offer a better climate than so many places, but it happens here too. And it is heartbreaking. Bullying of all sorts, not just gay and lesbian kids. Hurray for Katy and Carson. Thanks for speaking up for your peers. You are certainly making a difference! You have my support.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:03 a.m.

We need laws and punishment. We need to force change and punish those who don't agree with us. We need to protect the weak and helpless and never allow bullying. We need a law to stop China, Iran, and other countries from bullying their people and we need to enforce it.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

An &quot;on line petition&quot; and $3.25 (plus tax and tip of course) will get you a latte at Starbucks.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:29 p.m.

@bunnyabbot: the disgusting exemption that some Republicans offered up made it acceptable to &quot;BULLY&quot; another student based on moral convictions, not express a First Amendment calm opinion (however ignorant it might be). This wasn't about free speech; that exemption made students who bullied (as in beat up? torture?) another student based on the bully-er's religious convictions exempt. I have said this before and I repeat so LISTEN all: it is NEVER justifiable for another student (or anyone) to cause physical, emotional or mental harm to another student (or person). This should include any kind of physical or verbal aggression (teasing, torturing, etc.). We are NOT talking about being able to calmly express an opinion no matter how wrong, misguided, or ignorant. That would be a violation of free speech.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

Really, G. Orwell? It's too bad you don't believe in ANY restrictions at all on free speech. does or else I would imagine that some people might choose to say some things on here to you that you might find offensive. Don't get me wrong, I am probably one of the biggest believers in the First Amendment and all of what we interpret its intentions to be. But we are talking about schools and comfortable climates for ALL students here. The Supreme Court has found (TLO v NJ) that while students don't lose their Constitutional rights upon walking through a school door, the Court found that schools have a superior interest in doing what they are charged to do which is to educate our youth. ALL of them. That's why under certain circumstances, a school may violate a student's 4th Amendment right against illegal searches. The school has a superior interest in keeping our kids safe. This anti-bullying debate is about keeping our students not just safe from bullying, but to feel comfortable enough to keep attending school. Schools have a right to enact or enforce expected behavior codes to ensure the best possible learning environment for ALL students and it's high time all schools do that, either because they know it's the right thing to do or the state is forcing their hand in doing so. Again, in general, I don't want to legislate YOUR free speech or the KKK's as offensive as I find theirs. That would be a violation of the First Amendment. Other than yelling fire when there is none or threatening someone or committing libel/slander, we get to pretty much express ourselves in this country any ding-dang way we please. But let's make our schools a place of learning and a place that feels welcoming to all.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

G. Orwell..... What a strange view you have. Our children have gotten dumber over the past 30-40 years? What is your source for this ridiculous statement, if you don't mind my asking? I have recently begun to worry that our adults have become dumber. I'm looking into it as we speak.

G. Orwell

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

Public schools are nothing more than a system to indoctrinate children and, to some degree, prisoner training. These days you have metal detectors, security cameras, and police officers roaming the halls. Not only that, our children have gotten dumber over the past 30-40 years. Public education in the US is a joke. You can thank our politicians.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

&quot;...included an exemption for people who say their behavior is founded on a religious or moral conviction.&quot; I think the bill should say this. While some might not agree with it people should have the right to have their religious and moral convictions and be able to say them. Obviously no one wants to be talked to hatefully or in a threatening manner, however I don't know many adults that have these convictions that are not able to say so calmly in a constructive way. I think that parents that have these convictions should be talking to their children about them so that the children learn the proper way to convey the convictions to others ( if they share them). Stating ones convictions shouldn't be construed as hate speech or a phobia just becasue someone is offended by it.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

To believe that being gay is wrong is protected. To express those views in a discussion is protected. To back up those views by taunting others is simply wrong. It's also pretty barbaric. The schools need to help, but the churches and parents and other family members need to set the example and teach tolerance. If I believe being gay is wrong, that's my opinion. Do I have a right, especially in school, to push that view in the hallways and classrooms in a way that is demeaning to gay folks? I don't think so. This should apply to all people. Why should my being Swedish or African-American or Iranian put me up for mocking and scorn in my school? Nope.

K Thompson

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:28 a.m.

Saying it is different from physical intimidation. The person who is gay has a right to walk down a hall or sidewalk withput being jeered. The alleged religious people have a right to walk down a hall or sidewalk also. There is no need to mock other people as they pass. What kind of religion teaches that? One's thoughts, beliefs and speech ends where another one's begin.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

I agree with her, but I find it troubling that she equates someone saying &quot;that's so gay&quot; with a physical assault.

K Thompson

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:20 a.m.

The thought precedes the word that precedes the deed. A climate that tolerates the slur enables people to think it's OK to act on it. This is especially true among groups of students who inadvertently encourage each other by talking that way. Racial, ethnic, sexual slurs imply hostility and create the climate for bullying.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:41 p.m.

This group is kinda scary; brainwashing the young under the guise of social causes like this and global warming, or people like Al Gore telling kids their parents don't understand; and Gore does?. Has something like this ever happened with orgnizations and groups doing this before in past history................? Pretty soon they'll petition to have enough laws in place to effectively stop free speech and be able to turn in their friends, family, and others to the authorities...nice.

K Thompson

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 7:12 a.m.

I did not see Al Gore or global warming mentioned in the article, but several non-sequiturs. Bullying is based on fear. Educating and changing attitudes can begin to deter it. Being judgemental and harming others out of self-righteousness has to Change. That should not be scary. Bullying anyone is Not OK. For any reason (there is no reason - on several levels).


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

Great job Katy! I signed the petition and I am very proud of you for starting it. This means a lot more when it comes from the group(s) affected by bullying directly. Thanks for standing up for yourself - now it's time for the adults to do their jobs and make sure the ball isn't dropped on this one!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

I agree that freedom of speech cannot be put aside to erradicate bullying. However specific hate speech directed at an individual should initiate action to ensure the attacker understands that it is unacceptable. However some of the restrictions being asked by these inidividuals will impact freedom of speech by others.

G. Orwell

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

Anti-bullying should be supported but NO LAWS should be passed that stifle free speech. Otherwise our freedoms and democracy will suffer. It is possible certain people are using the anti-bullying as an excuse to do exactly that. And no group or groups should receive any favorism. That is discrimination and unconstitutional. Under the Constitution, everyone has equal rights.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

Republicans take heed, these are your kids petitioning the weakened bill.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

Good job for getting involved like this. A few comments... &quot;Beyond that, she said she hopes anti-bullying legislation can list examples of who's not allowed to be bullied and set consequences for people who do bully.&quot; The list of who's not allowed to be bullied includes everyone. That's easy. You cant enact legislation that lists certain people as protected and other as not protected. I suppose as a preamble a bill can list certain events and problems that served as the motivation for it's creation, such as the Constiturion stating, &quot;In order to for a more perfect union.&quot; As for consequences, that should be up to the individual school district, not the state, but I think it's reasonable for a bill to direct school districts to define and enforce consequences. &quot;But if someone gets punished for saying 'that's so gay' or beats someone up, I want education on why that's not OK.&quot; OK, beats someone up, sure. But simply uttering &quot;that's so gay&quot; is not bullying, especially if overheard as a third-party. That doesn't mean it's appropriate speech in a school environment, but it's not bullying. Bullying involves an attack, whether verbal or physical. Being within earshot of a statement that offends you does not qualify. Finding ones self offended or angered by something spoken is not necessarily the same as being attacked. If person A knows person C is gay, turns to person C and says it with intent to harm, then maybe, and even likely if there's a pattern of similar actions. There is danger in taking this bullying stuff to where &quot;hate speech&quot; went, which is to conclude that if somebody is offended then somebody else must be punished, but it's simply not the case. You don't have the right to leave your home in the morning and remain free form offense, or even from witnessing the most disgusting, foul speech or behavior, until you return home.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

I completely agree. Being in earshot of a comment that may offend you is not bullying. Unfortunately, w/o provisions to state that in a bill, it can/will be interpreted as bullying, even though common sense (yes its still around) dictates it's not. I do feel that some groups will get favoritism with these anti-bullying laws over others. Bullying is an attack, either physcial or verbal. It is not being personally offended with what someone says. That's life-you will be personally offended with what people say or do. Get used to it kids.