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School Violence Bills Moving In PA House & Senate
PCPA Members Urged to Respond Quickly

May 13, 1999

Both houses in the General Assembly are considering a number of bills aimed at curbing violence in schools. As so often happens with legislative responses to highly-publicized events, such as the recent shooting at a Colorado school, the bills tend to offer simple solutions to very complex problems, or to address the problems in a piecemeal fashion. Two of the bills most likely to move are noted below.

On May 5, the House Judiciary Committee passed HB 1276 (p.n. 1752), which amends the Mental Health Procedures Act to add school principal or chief administrator to the list of persons authorized to take someone for an emergency 302 examination. The bill clearly stipulates that such action "...may not be used as a form of discipline, but... only to obtain care for the affected student." Amending the MH Procedures Act makes this bill a possible vehicle for other amendments, such as raising the age of consent for services. PCPA is working to assure appropriate language in the legislation if it moves further. HB 1276 is scheduled for a House vote on June 7.

Another bill that may move is SB 234 (p.n. 1107), which was amended and passed by the Senate Judiciary on May 11. SB 234 amends the Judicial Procedure Code to require a psychological evaluation of any student who brings a firearm or explosive device on to school property. This bill is scheduled for action when the Senate returns on June 7, and may pass quickly (with or without additional amendments).

PCPA is working to assure appropriate legislation on this issue. In association with the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society and the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, we have asked to brief the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate on appropriate preventive measures to address school violence.

ACTION: PCPA members are urged to contact their legislators during the General Assembly's recess (May 12 - June 7) to discuss appropriate legislative responses to address this complex issue. Note the Student Assistance Programs (SAP) that are already in place in 501 school districts and the availability of the Office of Children, Youth and Families in each county. You can also request that legislative hearings be held to elicit informed input on appropriate responses to school violence. Hearings would be a much better approach than "quick fix" legislation.

For additional information on these issues, contact Lu Conser, Kris Ericson, or Lisa Lowrie at the Association office. For copies of bills, call your local legislator, the House Document Room (717/787-5320), or visit the General Assembly's Electronic Bill Room.

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