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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 20, 2021 12:50 AM
From: Representative Patrick J. Harkins
To: All House members
Subject: Removing derogatory terms from Pennsylvania school code
After dealing with the Pennsylvania school code for the last fifteen years it became apparent that the language contained in the code, which was originally written in 1949 was in dire need of some updates in words, phrases and terms.
I have introduced this legislation in previous sessions and the Department has been trying to update and correct some of the more obvious derogatory words and terms in the code but I feel this is something that really needs to be addressed and corrected through legislation.
Over the past few decades, Pennsylvania has taken steps to establish an inclusive classroom environment for all students with mental health issues and disabilities. Overall, inclusion efforts have had successful outcomes, promoted awareness and created new opportunities for students. However, we have yet to remove these derogatory terms from the law. As studies have shown, the use of certain words and phrases maintain the stigma that surrounds mental health issues and disabilities.
In the current law we see words like crippled, defective, disturbed, handicapped and retarded to describe children with mental health issues or physical or developmental disabilities. The time to change that is now, as a legislative body, it is our duty to lead by example and delegitimize derogatory words and language by eliminating them from our laws. Please join me in making Pennsylvania a more inclusive place for all students.

Introduced as HB365