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Penn Hills

Penn Hills next up to consider anti-bullying ordinance

Dillon Carr
| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, 2:24 p.m.
Penn Hills Municipal Building on Frankstown Road.
Tribune-Review
Penn Hills Municipal Building on Frankstown Road.

Penn Hills council members are considering a law that would punish bullies by slapping their parents with fines.

“Bullying is a pretty big problem,” Councilman Mark Brodnicki said after a recent meeting. “We have to get on this.”

Brodnicki recently brought up the idea of the ordinance that is now being worked on by the municipality's solicitor.

The ordinance would be modeled after one adopted this year in Sharpsburg, Councilman John Petrucci said. He said he expects council to vote on the ordinance next month.

Sharpsburg was the second municipality in Allegheny County to adopt a bullying ordinance. Brentwood passed a similar law in June 2014.

In Sharpsburg, parents of children are fined $250 for first-time citations. They are ordered to complete community service if they don't pay.

Penn Hills Councilwoman Catherine Sapp said she supports an anti-bullying law, but she wants to make the penalties more severe.

Penalties in Penn Hills are still up for discussion, but Brodnicki said it wouldn't be a huge fine or very lengthy community service.

“This would just bring the parents into the picture more,” Brodnicki said.

Penn Hills school board President Erin Vecchio thinks the ordinance is a great idea.

“I am for anything to stop what is going on in the world today,” she said, referring to the recent mass shooting at a Florida school that left 17 people dead.

Bullying is defined in Sharpsburg's ordinance as a form of harassment and an intentional deed intended to intimidate, abuse, defame or threaten in person or online.

In Pennsylvania, schools are required to provide written policies to students addressing how to make complaints about harassment.

Council is expected to vote on the ordinance in March. If it's approved, the school board would need to adopt the policy to authorize district security guards to enforce the law, Vecchio said.

“And they would have to obviously evaluate each issue. You know, kindergarten kids, we're not going to put them in handcuffs,” Vecchio said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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