House unanimously passes Harkins’ bill to rid School Code of offensive language

HARRISBURG, April 26 – Pennsylvania’s School Code is one step closer to an important update after the House today unanimously passed state Rep. Pat Harkins’ bill to eliminate outdated and offensive language from the code.

Harkins, D-Erie, said H.B. 301 would remove antiquated, stigmatizing words to describe students with disabilities or mental health issues.

“Hurtful, stigmatizing language has no place in our public law books,” Harkins said. “Unfortunately, our School Code – which was drafted in 1949 – still contains offensive terms like ‘crippled,’ ‘retarded’ and ‘defective’ when referring to students with disabilities.

“Pennsylvania’s school system has progressed light years past those days, with inclusive classrooms that recognize potential and encourage achievement in students of all abilities.

Now, it’s time to make sure the laws in our books reflect that more enlightened thinking. With today’s unanimous passage of my bill, we are one step closer to making that happen.”

A previous version of the bill passed the General Assembly in October 2022 and was referred to the Rules Committee.