Harkins bill to rid Public School Code of derogatory language passes House unanimously

HARRISBURG, May 15 – The House today unanimously passed a bill that would remove outdated, derogatory language from the state’s Public School Code, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie.

“Our laws are a reflection of our values as a society,” Harkins said. “Pennsylvania has made measurable progress in updating our classrooms and educational programs to be inclusive of students with mental health issues and disabilities. At the same time, however, derogatory terms such as ‘defective’ and ‘handicapped’ remain in the Public School Code.

“Language is powerful: Studies have shown that the use of certain words and phrases maintains the stigma surrounding mental health issues and disabilities. It is time to update our laws so that they keep pace with our advancement toward a more inclusive society. I’m extremely pleased that the House unanimously passed this legislation. Removing such language from our laws would go a long way toward eliminating it from speech, social interactions and perceptions.”

The bill (H.B. 1196) now heads to the state Senate for consideration and a vote.