A graduate student is proving that lawmakers aren’t the only ones who can write bills.
On Friday, state Rep. Dan Truitt (R-West Chester) introduced the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act into the state legislature as House Bill 2636. The anti-bullying bill was largely written by first-year School of Design student Jason Goodman, as well as other members of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, an LGBT youth advocacy group.
“I would say that every state surrounding Pennsylvania has stronger anti-bullying policies,” said Goodman, the executive director of PSEC and a 2011 College graduate. “It is prime time for the legislature to consider the PASS Act.”
Pennsylvania’s anti-bullying legislation was last amended in 2008, but Truitt believes this round of revisions missed some important things, such as cyberbullying. The new bill is designed to fill in the gaps left by the previous amendment.
“It establishes a reporting mechanism. It establishes accountability so that when students experience an incident of bullying, there’s a follow through that ensures no student should be left behind,” Goodman said. “Educators and staffs who interact with students will finally have tools they need to be prepared to address safe-school issues.”
Goodman and other PSEC students began drafting the bill in summer 2011. They drew on existing legislation from states with stronger anti-bullying laws to compile their draft.
“We spent a great deal of time researching how to write legislation, what were the components [that] we thought were important,” Goodman said of the process. “It’s hugely important to note that it was written for students by students.”
With the help of legislators and school officials, the students at PSEC were able to revise the legislation before it was then introduced into the state legislature by Truitt, the main sponsor of the bill.
Truitt, who is on the House Education Committee, feels that this bill is necessary to make schools safer.
“Even if we move some kids to safer schools, we can’t ignore the schools they’ve left behind,” he said. “We have to go back and make them safer for everyone.”
Truitt also had another reason for becoming the primary sponsor of the PASS Act.
“I’ve had some personal experience as a kid. I remember being bullied,” he said. “I still remember it to this day.”
Advocates of the bill are confident in its viability moving forward.
“There’s very little in the bill that’s partisan at all,” College senior and Penn’s liaison to PSEC Jake Tolan said. “More importantly, it’s written by a student group that wants to benefit students.”
Despite only having been introduced a few days ago, the bill currently has about a dozen co-sponsors signed on, according to Truitt. However, he still does not believe it will be passed until the next legislative session.
“Realistically, nothing happens after Oct. 18,” Truitt said. “Starting in January, we’ll just reintroduce it.”
Truitt expects the bill to be passed in the next two-year legislative session. He has set a personal deadline of June 2013.
“I can’t anticipate anybody blocking this bill,” he said. “But with a group like PSEC working so hard to push this bill, it really improves the odds.”