The task before them was to analyze and discuss a real piece of state legislation and come up with their own version of the bill.
And so, the students from different area high schools played the parts of state lawmakers to debate a Senate bill banning TikTok on public networks.
Participating schools this year included Athens Area, Canton Junior/Senior, Grace Christian Academy, Jersey Shore Area, Lewisburg Area, Loyalsock Township, Mifflinburg Area, Montgomery Area Junior/Senior, Montoursville Area, Muncy, Towanda Area Junior/Senior, Wellsboro Area and Williamsport Area high schools, according to a press release.
The educational session, monitored by a panel, was part of a daylong student government seminar at Pennsylvania College of Technology presented by state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township.
As the students finished up the debate and finally voted on an amended version offered up on the bill, Mary Beth Dougherty, staff assistant for Pennsylvania House Republican Whip Dave Argall and a panelist, asked them, “Can you see why it takes so long to pass a bill?”
The TikTok bill reads, in part, as follows: “This act outlines the mandate that certain unauthorized applications may not be used on public networks or publicly funded devices. Unauthorized applications are defined as the video sharing Tik Tok and any other applications developed by its parent company, ByteDance Limited. Public funded devices include any computer, tablet, smartphone, or other device with internet capabilities which was purchased with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars, including but not limited to those devices issued by government officials or school districts.”
Politics, it has been said, is “the art of compromise,” and after many students had their say on the bill, the amended version struck out certain words from the original legislation, changing “public networks” to “government networks” and “public funded devices” to “government issued devices.”
The following language was removed from the original version: including but not limited to those devices issued by government offices or school districts.
“I don’t see how you can ban TikTok,” said Gabrielle Shearer, a Montoursville Area High School senior.
Sarah Champion, an Athens High School senior, asked, “What are the consequences if you are caught on TikTok?”
“Why single out TikTok?” asked yet another student.
At one point, Yaw was asked by a student about the legislation and if the bill is indeed targeting TikTok and perhaps China, which has been accused of using the social media app to spy on Americans.
Montana recently became the first state to ban TikTok. President Joe Biden signed legislation banning it from government devices last December.
Yaw noted there are certainly some concerns about unauthorized access to information on one’s phone.
But, he also said, “The most perfect piece of legislation hasn’t been written.”
Matt Wise, Yaw’s district director, noted that about 185 students participated in the government seminar, which included different sessions and issues.
Of the TikTok debate, he said, “It’s important for them to learn about the process, understand other views and learn to compromise.”