The Senate Education Committee returned to H.461 again on Friday, with Draft 3.1 of the bill in front of them. Rachel Seelig (Director, Disability Law Project) was asked to weigh in on the draft language and she provided a couple anecdotal stories of students she was aware of. Her main thesis was that the current standard set the bar too low and that actions should not need to be “severe or pervasive” in order to be considered harassment.
Chairman Campion stated, “I think I have divided committee,” noting that he so needed to move the bill. He reassured that this was not “the end of this conversation.” He had apparently surveyed Committee members before the meeting and announced that the Committee was split 2-2 on the harassment provision of the bill and that they would move on without it.
Legislative Counsel reviewed the remaining sections of the bill (with the harassment language removed), which included:
- 4 – National Guard Benefit Program.
- 5 – Home Study Statute.
- 5 – Extending Delivery Dates for Equity Working group.
- 7 – New Act 1 Working Group.
- 8 – Drivers Education Pilot project.
- 9 – Voting method to elect new school district boards.
- 10 – Changes school board elections.
Campion mentioned the bill would have to go to the Appropriations Committee, because of the Education Fund impact, and then likely to the Finance Committee.
Senator Hashim asked if they could take an “official vote” on the Harassment Language for the record. Campion called the vote and it was 2-2-1 (Senator Weeks was absent).
Senator Gulick repeated that the leadership in her school district felt that more BIPOC kids would be trapped in disciplinary actions and result in unintended consequences that would hinder educational opportunity.
Hashim wished to address discrimination in “other bills” as he sees “a lot of hard work” that has been put into this by attorneys and experts he supports.
Campion added Gulick would still have her “school district folks” come in next week for dialogue.
The underlying bill was moved, and the vote was 4-0-1 in favor.