Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Brian Sims Finds Bipartisanship For Anti-Bullying Bill In Pennsylvania


Last November, Brian Sims became the first openly-gay-elected member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and he has come out hard and fast in creating, and passing, anti-bullying legislation, AKA  the Pennsylvania Safe Schools [PASS] Act.

Brian Sims:
“As many of you can imagine, as a member of the LGBT community myself, such measures are something that I am particularly attuned to. The fact remains that young members of the LGBT community--or those perceived to be--are bullied and otherwise discriminated against at alarming rates. Every study that looks to analyze the impact of bullying has shown there to be lasting, and extremely detrimental effects that can stay with a person for a lifetime.”
But the more interesting aspect about the passing of the PASS Act are the people who have jumped on board: Pennsylvania Republicans. Among the 67 co-sponsors of the bill are not just Sims and members of the LGBT caucus--like fellow representatives, and Democrats, Dan Frankel and Mike Sturla--but more than a few Republicans, including Mike Fleck, a Republican who recently announced, publicly, that he is gay; and some of his fellow Republicans Dan Truitt, Mario Scavello, Todd Rock and Justin Simmons.

Brian Sims:
“I felt like a major change following the last election cycle wasn’t that there was going to be a ground swell of LGBT Democrats—that support has always been there and has always been strong, but what we’re really beginning to see is the Republican Party get on this issue....[Anti-bullying legislation is] no longer a wedge issue. I think we’re seeing that Republicans who we know have always had LGBT family members, have always had LGBT co-workers and certainly had experience, themselves, with bullying.”
The PASS Act--endorsed by Equality PA and Service Employees International Union [SEIU]--would amend the Public School Code of 1949, by “further providing for program of continuing professional education; and, in safe schools, further providing for definitions, for reporting and for policy relating to bullying and providing for powers and duties of Department of Education.”

Those amendments would include a change in the definition of bullying to say that it is “any written, verbal or physical conduct” related to a characteristic like race, color, religion, and, now, sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill also includes a definition of “cyberbullying.”

Brian Sims:
“Especially following Matthew Shepard, we saw a whole bunch of states pass anti-bullying legislation, which I call ‘toothless bills. They didn’t specifically enumerate the classes of people that need to be protected. They didn’t have reporting requirements, they didn’t have time frames on reports, they didn’t say what needed to be included in reports and I think this is very different. This bill protects those people from bullying and it will actually curb bullying—not just lend it lip service.”
Hopefully the newfound sense of bipartisanship in Pennsylvania might spread to other states, and hopefully their new anti-bullying legislation will follow suit.


3 comments:

the dogs' mother said...

:-)

robertga99 said...

Hopefully. It does sound promising...at least on this issue

mistress maddie said...

I love Brian Simms and bravo on this bill!!! Im so glad he won. A friend of mine helped on his trail on the campaign to his win. And the ex Boy-Toy was involved heavy in politics as he was a chief of staff for a state rep here in Bucks. They wanted Brian to run earlier, but the timing had to be just right. Mario Scavello is very cool also as most of the reps here in bucks, it's just the rest of the state were waiting for to come around. There is also four other "closeted reps" that support, but I wish they would come out, seeing the reception Brian got. He seems to be quite popular here in PA.