House-approved school bill would end lunch shaming, seniority-based layoffs

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The state House of Representatives has approved legislation to change the way teachers are laid off, prohibit “lunch shaming,” and make several other changes to the Public School Code.

House Bill 178 would also delay the implementation of the Keystone Exam as a graduation requirement until the 2019-20 school year, require public schools to conduct annual security drills, include opioid abuse and prevention in the drug and alcohol curriculum, and increase the Educational Improvement Tax Credit by $10 million.

The legislation was approved by the state House of Representatives after amendments Wednesday and returned to the Senate for concurrence.

The teacher furlough bill, originally introduced by Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) as House Bill 1495, would require districts to end seniority-based layoffs and use teacher performance ratings during budget cuts. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed similar legislation last year, saying the focus of policies should not be how to conduct mass layoffs but how to invest in schools.

The language to prohibit “lunch shaming” – where children are singled out in an attempt to collect a cafeteria debt from parents – would require districts to serve meals to all students who want one. Schools could not humiliate the children by identifying or stigmatizing them, requiring them to do chores, or ordering them to throw a served meal in the trash.

Rep. Gary Day (R-Lehigh/Berks), the author of the proposal to mandate security drills, set it would help school officials better prepare for a variety of emergency situations.

“School districts are required to hold fire drills every year, and while that is helpful to overall preparedness, fires aren’t the only emergencies that can happen at school,” Day said in a statement. “Sadly, in this day and age, schools should be afforded the flexibility to prepare their staff and students for different types of emergencies and security situations.”

Day said his legislation would require schools to inform police and emergency management agencies of plans to conduct drills. He said the drills could take the place of a fire drill, which is already mandated by state law.

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