Burns, Policy Committee explore ways to curb bullying


JOHNSTOWN, Oct. 4 – Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, today hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing at the Hiram G. Andrews Center to discuss anti-bullying efforts.


Burns was joined by House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, and other committee members from across the state to hear testimony about the seriousness of bullying and how the legislature can work with the state Department of Education, schools and communities to come together to curb it.


Burns’ package of anti-bullying bills (H.B.s 2217, 2218 and 2219), which seeks to hold parents, school officials and students accountable for bad behavior, was also discussed at the hearing. The package includes education for parents, and potentially fining or requiring community service of those whose children repeatedly bully others. They also would require the Department of Education to establish an anonymous reporting system for bullying, and would provide for accurate, real-time data on bullying by requiring schools to track and report incidents to the department’s Office of Safe Schools.


“With the start of another school year, I knew it was crucial to bring my colleagues together to discuss the pervasive problem of bullying in our schools,” Burns said. “The testimony we heard today highlights why we need comprehensive anti-bullying reforms at the state level. Bullying is underreported and often unaddressed in any meaningful way. When it’s not addressed, bullying can escalate quickly from taunts and hurtful online posts to physical assaults and—in worst cases—suicide. Holding students, parents and officials at all levels accountable is the only way to put an end to this scourge.”


Sturla added; “Kids should feel safe going to school and not fear being pushed around by their peers. Bullying is dangerous and distracting. It’s important that we come together to identify bullies, hold students accountable for their behavior and ultimately get everyone focused on having a positive educational experience.”


Burns also is co-sponsor of a House resolution that designates October as “Bullying Awareness Prevention Month.”


The committee heard testimony from: Jason Moore, superintendent, Central Cambria School District; Shiryl Barto, manager, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; Allison Messina, director of evaluation, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; Dominic Cannizzaro, chief executive officer, HIBster; and James Budzilek, director of education, HIBster.


Testimony, photos and video from today’s hearing will be available at www.pahouse.com/policycommittee.


The meeting was one in a series being held across the state on the House Democrats’ Plan4PA, which includes putting people first with good jobs, affordable health care, quality schools and a fair economy. Those interested can visit www.plan4pa.com for additional information about the Plan4PA.