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Proposed Tennessee Law May Open Loopholes For Bullying Behavior
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Proposed Tennessee Law May Open Loopholes for Bullying Behavior

Tennessee has a proposed bill which is about to be debated in the House and Senate which supporters are claiming is meant to protect First Amendment rights to self expression. Critics of that bill, however, are saying that the bill will do more harm than good, giving bullies a legal loophole to continue their behavior while shielding them from any kind of punishment.

The bill was actually introduced last year but gained increased notice after it was made one of the top priorities of a conservative group that calls itself the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT). That group has said that the continued policies meant to protect students from bullying or harassing behaviors at schools or school functions were taking away the rights of self expression in certain circumstances, namely within religious or political beliefs. Supporters of the bill say that it is meant to protect free speech and self expression when stating political views, religious beliefs or philosophical statements to another without fear that there would be punishments or repercussions from doing so, as long as there are no threats of physical harm against that person or their property. Schools in the state have been mandated to adopt policies against bullying after an increased number of suicides linked to constant verbal and physical intimidation, bullying or harassment incidents.

Opponents of the bill are worried that people, especially in certain, notoriously intolerant areas of the state would take this loophole as a free pass to continue their behaviors, hiding behind extreme views to protect themselves from any kind of punishment. Chris Sanders, the Chairman of the Nashville Committee of the Tennessee Equality Project has said that the bill's wording presents some major problems, especially in certain communities that are potentially higher risk for the bullying behavior. Members of the LGBT community are concerned that the bill is sending the message that as long as you quote the Bible or declare that it is your "political" view, that you can bully and harass, stopping short of actual physical violence or destruction of property.

Opponents are also concerned that the bill might be taking the state in a backwards direction, undoing some of the progress that has been made to prevent bullying and negative treatment by groups within the community. There are some areas where intolerance continues to be a problem, a major concern that Sanders and other groups have expressed. The bill continues to be debated in that state.


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