Kinsey, Bullock call bullying a public health pandemic, introduce legislation to curtail it in Pa.

HARRISBURG, Jan. 18 – State Reps. Stephen Kinsey and Donna Bullock, both D-Phila., have introduced a bill (H.B. 2009) that would require bullying education to be taught in Pennsylvania schools across all grade levels.

This bill would implement uniform bullying prevention policies to address the issue at its root cause through education and intervention programs.

“Following my October news conference to bring attention to the alarming incidence of bullying, I’m calling on Pennsylvania’s executive and legislative leaders to take action,” Kinsey said. “Bullying is a public health pandemic, and we must provide the resources necessary to get it under control. Our children are being hurt and dying because of perceived differences.”

Both Kinsey and Bullock cite the recent surge in suicides among young people as the primary motivation for introducing the bill. Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death among Pennsylvanians between the ages of five and 24, with 222 people within that age group taking their lives in 2015 according to a state Department of Health report.

Bullock, vice chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said, “While there are policies in place that seek to prevent bullying from occurring, there are no clear policies to change the culture that consumes our children. This is especially true when it comes to cyber bullying. Having these policies posted throughout our schools is not enough. This is particularly true when it comes to bias-based bullying. We must devote our resources and attention not only on the behavior itself, but on the prejudice and bias that propel it.”

Research suggests that bias-based bullying, bullying on the basis of one’s race, disability, or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, is linked to higher rates of distress and compromised academic performance.

Kinsey added, “Children are not born to hate or bully others, these are actions that are taught and learned. My hope is that this legislation will help us change that culture.”

Kinsey and Bullock will host a House Democratic Policy Hearing as part of the Plan for Pennsylvania to facilitate further discussion on the bill. The hearing will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6001 Germantown Ave.