Senate Votes to Protect First Amendment Rights of Teachers

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate voted to repeal a portion of the state’s school code to protect the first amendment rights of teachers, said Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) who supported the bill.

Senate Bill 247 repeals Section 1112 of the Public School Code of 1949, which prohibits teachers from wearing any garb, mark, emblem, or insignia that would indicate they are a member of or adherent to any religious order or sect while in the performance of their duties as a teacher.

Under the school code, a teacher who violates this ban must be suspended from teaching for a term of one year, or permanently disqualified from teaching after multiple offenses. Public school directors can be held criminally liable for failing to enforce this prohibition.

Pennsylvania is the last state in the United States with this provision still in place. In 2003, the federal courts held that the school’s religious affiliations policy violates the free exercise of religion and free speech clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution after a teacher was suspended for refusing to remove or conceal a small cross necklace.

The bill will now be sent to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com.  State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

CONTACT: Madison Scarfaro mscarfaro@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388