The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously voted to create an anti-bullying themed license plate on Tuesday, March 18th. Meanwhile, the most supported anti-bullying bill in state history, the Pennsylvania Safe Schools (PASS) Act, remains stalled in the House Education Committee.
The anti-bullying license plate, HB 845, was introduced by Rep. Karen Boback (R-117) on March 11th and passed by the chamber one week later. The PASS Act, HB 156, was first introduced in September 2012, and re-introduced in January 2013. Despite gaining a record-breaking 102 co-sponsors, backed by 50 Republican and 52 Democratic representatives, the PASS Act has yet to go to the House floor for a vote. Rep. Boback is a co-sponsor of the PASS Act.
Pennsylvania’s anti-bullying law is among the weakest in the nation, according to the US Department of Education. The PASS Act will update the current law to establish a clear and accessible reporting mechanism for incidents of bullying, provide tools for faculty and staff to address incidents of school violence, and train educators to promote safer schools. The PASS Act is supported by a large grassroots coalition of students, educators, clergy, educational organizations, and mayors within Pennsylvania.
If enacted into law, the anti-bullying license plate will be available upon vehicle registration for an additional $35 fee. Fifteen dollars from the sale of each plate will be allocated to a Bullying Awareness and Prevention Fund, which will be controlled by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. A design for the license plate has yet to be announced.
The PASS Partnership, the coalition of organizations backing the bill, supports efforts to raise awareness and funds for anti-bullying efforts. However, it is wild to know that the Pennsylvania House was able to pass an anti-bullying license plate measure in just one week, with unanimous support, but cannot push through a desperately needed update to the Pennsylvania School Code regarding the issue itself.
Funding more anti-bullying programs will be helpful, but it does not guarantee lasting or institutional change. Without effective policies to shape and support anti-bullying efforts, Pennsylvania schools do not have the necessary tools to reduce incidents of school harassment and violence.
Pennsylvanians may contact their legislators to urge their support for the PASS Act at pasafeschoolsact.com.