HARRISBURG, Pa. — Freshman state lawmaker, Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly gay elected member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, is leading efforts in the state House to gain bipartisan support for an anti-bullying bill known as the Pennsylvania Safe Schools (PASS) Act.
The PASS Act would amend the state’s public school code by amending the definition of bullying to be “any written, verbal or physical conduct,” related to a characteristic like race, color, religion, “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity.”
The bill, endorsed by Equality Pennsylvania, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, also includes a definition of “cyberbullying,” school-sponsored events, and electronic communication.
In an e-mail to Democratic colleagues last week, Sims wrote:
“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.”
Sims said he was pleased that several prominent Republican House members have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.
“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,” Sims told the Philadelphia Weekly.
Anti-bullying legislation is “no longer a wedge issue,” Sims added.
The PASS Act was referred to the House Education Committee last on Jan. 23, but has not yet been scheduled for consideration and a vote.