House lawmakers, families and advocates renew call for anti-bullying legislation in Pa.

HARRISBURG, June 26 – House lawmakers, families and advocates this week renewed their call to pass legislation that addresses anti-bullying policies in Pennsylvania schools.

At a Capitol news conference on Monday, the family of Sammy Teusch, a child who was bullied at his school in Indiana and died by suicide on May 5, joined state Reps. Danilo Burgos and Joe Hohenstein, both D-Phila.; Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware; Kiria Cora, executive director of the Cora Foundation; and others to call upon the legislature to act on anti-bullying legislation.

The legislation includes O’Mara’s House Bill 1293, which would require schools to notify parents and legal guardians when their child is involved in or experiences bullying, and a comprehensive series of bills known as the Rights and Protections for All Students package, introduced by Hohenstein and others.

The urgent plea follows a series of meetings with advocates and the families of victims of bulling – including the Teusch family. The lawmakers said increased bullying incidents have profound impacts on students’ mental health, academic performance and overall well-being.

Burgos, who chairs the Pennsylvania Legislative Latino Caucus, urged for the passage these bills.

Passing anti-bullying legislation to address and prevent bullying in schools is not about punishment but about prevention, education and creating an environment where every child feels loved and cared for,” Burgos said.

O’Mara noted the life-and-death circumstances of bullying and the need for schools to not leave parents in the dark when bullying occurs. 

“House bill 1293 is another tool in our belt that can be used to not only address bullying, but also save children’s lives by giving parents the chance to help their children get through the bleakest of periods in their lives before it’s too late,” O’Mara said.

Ayaan Moledina, federal policy director for Students Engaged in Advancing Texas, urged for adequate and preventable policies to be put in place.

“Having adequate anti-bullying policies that focus on prevention, intervention and education are key steps to ending this crisis,” Moledina said.

Cora also noted the need for Pennsylvania to update its anti-bullying laws.

“Current Pennsylvania laws lack comprehensive and updated concepts of bullying in all its manifestations,” Cora said. “We must include bullying due to social exclusion and cyberbullying. They have not been updated since 2009 and, as a consequence, they are not specific or strong enough to effectively deter the bullying that we continue to suffer.”

Hohenstein discussed the need to look after LGBTQ+ youth.

“When we see bullying against our LGBTQ+ youth, we are charged with making sure we are protecting them,” Hohenstein said. “It is one of the central responsibilities that we have as legislators, as parents, and as fellow human beings for people in our community who have only the best to share with us. We need to share the best of ourselves with them, and these policies will do that.” 

Video of the news conference can be found here.

Photos can be found here.