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06/19/2024 12:21 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20230&cosponId=40715
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: May 8, 2023 02:58 PM
From: Representative Kyle J. Mullins and Rep. Torren C. Ecker, Rep. Brandon J. Markosek
To: All House members
Subject: Severe Bullying: Definition and Consequences
 
It is our belief that bullying in today’s America has hit a crisis point – driving young people to the unthinkable point of suicide or causing severe harm to themselves or others. Families, lives, and reputations are being ripped apart because of the severe, chronic, and inescapable nature of what bullying has become. News accounts of suicide as a result of social media shaming and harassment have become too commonplace, and yet no level of heartbreak or appeal for civility seems to serve as a deterrent to the perpetrators. Therefore, our legislation will define and penalize the offense of “bullying” in Pennsylvania.

At present, the Pennsylvania Crimes Code does not define “bullying.” According to several district attorneys, prosecutors are often left with no option other than to categorize such behavior under one of four, often-unsuitable statutory offenses: disorderly conduct, harassment, simple assault, or terroristic threats. Our legislation would define the crime of “bullying” as the intent to: harass, annoy, alarm or intimidate another individual or group of individuals; or, place another individual or group of individuals in fear of personal injury or property damage. Grading for the offense would be one degree higher than the grading for the defined crime; a defined crime graded as a summary offense would be upgraded to a third-degree misdemeanor if bullying occurred.

We are proud to have the support of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association, as they provided valuable input in crafting legislation that would give them the tools they need address such cases. While the bill adds a criminal offense, it is truly a school safety and mental health initiative.

We introduce this proposal, not just as lawmakers who have identified a severe problem and significant gap in law, but also as individuals who have witnessed or experienced bullying ourselves in our younger years.  We are also standing up as fathers of young children who are part of a generation that should be spared from the scourge of modern-day bullying. We ask for your support for these same reasons.