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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2022 11:54 AM
From: Representative Patrick J. Harkins
To: All House members
Subject: Removing derogatory terms from the School Code of 1949
After dealing with the School Code for the last sixteen years it exceedingly apparent that the original 1949 language contained the code is in dire need of updating words, phrases, and terms.

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.  I have introduced legislation in previous sessions and the Pennsylvania Department of Education has been trying to update and correct some of the more obvious derogatory words and terms in the code.   However, I believe this should be addressed and corrected using the legislative process.
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.
This legislation was previously introduced as HB365 of 2021.

Introduced as HB301