Boccieri Delivers Sponsor Testimony On The Students To Soldiers Support Act
Bill would protect students who miss extracurricular activities due to military service
December 07, 2016
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State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) this morning delivered sponsor testimony on House Bill (HB) 496, legislation to prohibit public and private schools – both high schools and higher education institutions – from preventing a student from participating in any part of an extracurricular activity because of an absence due to military service.

The legislation was inspired by a student and member of the West Branch High School girls’ basketball team, who earlier this year attended mandatory preparatory training at the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Base and consequently missed a team practice. As a result, she was not permitted to dress for the next basketball game.

“Hearing from this student’s family about her experience made it clear to me that there are gaps in our current military service protection laws,” said Boccieri.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) guarantees that uniformed service members are not disadvantaged or discriminated against in their careers as a result of military obligations. However, the federal statute only applies to paid workers, not students.

“As a military reservist myself, I know that our civilian jobs are protected when we engage in voluntary or involuntary service under USERRA, and students who have a military status deserve protection too,” said Boccieri. “I’m pleased the chairman of the House Education Committee publicly said that he thought HB 496 was a good idea and I hope that this important protective measure will pass sooner rather than later.”

HB 496 was introduced in March, when Rep. Boccieri announced the legislation at West Branch High School with the affected student’s family. Given the limited time for the bill to move through the legislative process before the end of the General Assembly, Boccieri pledged to reintroduce it next year.

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