Legislators Battle Bullying with Law - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Legislators Battle Bullying with Law

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State Representatives from all over Pennsylvania met on at Villa Maria Academy on Tuesday to talk about school and cyber bullying.

"It's an issue that I've dealt with first hand. My daughter, Barbara, 14 years old, had to change schools because of a bullying incident where my whole family was targeted with death threats on Instagram," said State Rep Patrick Harkins, Erie D-1st District.

Though stories like Harkins' are heard all too often, there's no legislation in Pennsylvania that defines bullying and what repercussions should be. That means schools and law enforcement, often  hit walls when trying to help victims find justice.

"The schools stress that they have zero tolerance, but when something happens, it's proven that 'zero tolerance' often doesn't work. They don't have the wherewithal to implement it," Harkins said.

Tuesday's hearing was hosted by Harkins and State Rep Ryan Bizzarro, Millcreek D-3rd District. Harkins and Bizzarro are also co-sponsors of proposed legislation (House bills 91, 101, and 914)  that alleviate some of the current challenges.

The hearing also included testimonials from parents, school counselors, the district attorney - all spelled out examples of cases that would benefit from clearly defined legislation.

One audience member of the hearing at Villa was bullied at the school more than a decade ago. 

"Villa was an all girls school and I was a guy coming here (in 1995) and just because I was a guy coming here, I got bullied by the Prep guys and the Mercyhurst guys," said Jason Brendel of Erie, an LGBT activist.    

Brendel said the time for clear-cut legislation is past due.

"I'm happy to see that my local elected officials are standing behind me and helping me as an openly gay citizen," he said. "It's high time and I'm so happy and so proud that we're moving forward together."


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