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Public Statements

Phylicia's Law

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. ROTHMAN of New Jersey. I thank the gentleman for the time.

Mr. Speaker, today, we consider legislation that is an important step in protecting our young people as they come to explore this amazing world that we live in.

First, I want to take time to thank my friend, the Education and Labor Chairman George Miller. Earlier this year, Chairman Miller took time from his schedule to meet with Phylicia Moore's parents, Lola and Douglas Moore, and with Phylicia's brother, Christopher. Chairman Miller heard their heartbreaking story. The legislation we have before us today is a testament to his leadership and to his compassion.

I also want to acknowledge the role played by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He also personally met with the Moores. He and his staff have suggested several important improvements to the bill. I am deeply grateful for his personal involvement.

I would also like to thank Ranking Member McKeon and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle for their bipartisan support of this very important legislation.

I would also like to recognize and to express my gratitude for the endorsements of the National Parent Teacher Association, the National Education Association and the National School Boards Association for this important bill.

Phylicia's Law bears the name of a young woman from my district who was taken from us much too soon. Phylicia Moore was an 18-year-old high school student from Teaneck, New Jersey, who died in April 2007 while on a school-sponsored trip to Ghana.

Today, however, is not about the past. We are here to talk about the future and what we can do to help ensure that no more parents endure what Douglas and Lola Moore have gone through. It is the culmination of the Moores' hard work, the dedication to their daughter and to her memory, and their desire that no other parents suffer as they have that brings us to this moment on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.

As a parent myself, when I send my children to school, I expect them to be safe. I expect them to be just as safe when the school takes them on a field trip off school premises. Public school districts are now required to have safety plans and security procedures in place for the physical campus of their schools. However, there are no such requirements when schools take students off campus for field trips or for any other reason. Phylicia's Law will fix this dangerous omission.

Phylicia's Law will require school districts to develop a safety policy for overnight school trips. However, the bill as written still gives individual schools the leeway to determine their own plans and procedures, which parents will then be able to review before the parents decide if the school district has the right security plan for their child sufficient to allow a parent in good conscience to let their child take this off-campus school trip.

Given that schools already know how to devise their security plans for on-
campus events, this new requirement for off-campus events should not be overly burdensome. On the contrary, I think this new requirement should be welcome as a plan and set of procedures that will help protect everyone on their trip.

With plans and procedures in place, there will be a blueprint for chaperones, for their trip leaders, for students, and for parents, all of whom will want to know what individual roles and responsibilities there are on this trip and what will happen should tragedy strike. We need Phylicia's Law to not only keep children safe but help schools to continue to offer important off-campus learning activities.

Off-campus school trips are an important part of the educational experience of our Nation's students. Each year, millions of our young people enjoy these trips. They provide students with invaluable learning opportunities outside the classroom. Keeping our students safe is paramount, but we also need to continue to provide these essential off-campus educational experiences.

Phylicia Moore was in Ghana on a goodwill trip. She was there to help others. She was a good, caring person. She was brave. She was filled with light. When speaking with Phylicia's parents, Douglas and Lola Moore, it is easy to see how much loved Phylicia was. Douglas and Lola's love helped make Phylicia the wonderful young woman she had become. It is with a heavy heart that I stand here today because nothing will bring this wonderful young woman back. But I commend Phylicia's parents, Douglas and Lola Moore, coming to me about Phylicia's Law, for caring about other parents and children, and I hope that we can get Phylicia's Law passed for them, for their daughter, and to make sure that parents across the country never have to face the pain that the Moores will continue to live with.

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Mr. ROTHMAN. I thank the gentleman.

The gentleman has expressed, I think, an important concern with regards to those powers that are not deemed already provided to the Federal Government with regards to the State should not be expanded. However, there are many, many instances--whether it be clean water standards or clean air standards or seatbelt standards for cars; the list is endless--to protect the public safety and good health of our people that the Federal Legislature, made up of 435 of us from all over the country, provide the minimum standards of safety that we wish to have in each of the 50 States.

But recognizing the general intention of the gentleman's objection, we changed the law to make it even more local community friendly this way. We said, We're not going to tell the local school districts what plan to have. Whatever plan they come up with is fine, period. All we require them to do is to have a plan or not have a plan but simply tell the parents, We have no plan, or, Here is our plan. This is to empower parents to make an informed judgment as to whether they want to put their children's safety in the hands of this particular school district if and when the school district decides they want to go on a school trip. I think that's why it has received bipartisan support.

I'm a former local mayor, former judge myself, and I'm very sensitive to too much intrusion in the local decisionmaking. This simply says to the school districts have a plan or don't have a plan, but you have got to tell the parents and let them make their judgment on the validity of the plan so that they can decide, as a parent, then, whether they want to go forth.

This is not just a tribute to Phylicia, although it is in some part. It is an effort to prevent these tragedies from happening again. That's why the National Parent-Teacher Association, the National School Boards Association, and the National Education Association, as well as colleagues on both sides of the aisle, have supported it.

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