At a time when taxpayers bemoan "Taj Mahal"-style school buildings with elaborate architecture, a law mandating proper maintenance of outhouses is perhaps woefully out of date.
There isn't a public school in Pennsylvania that still uses outhouses, and they aren't even allowed by the modern building codes governing school construction.
Nonetheless, the state's Public School Code contains a section of law calling for outhouses to be "properly cleaned" (using lime) 10 days before the start of a school term.
The provision is one of a handful of outdated rules, some original to the 1949 version of the School Code, a local legislator is hoping to repeal.
House Bill 1861 from Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, is sitting in the House Education Committee, co-sponsored locally by Reps. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, and Will Tallman, R-Adams and York counties.
In addition to the outhouse provisions, the bill calls for repealing several other sections related to:
•Using a heat shield to shield students from direct rays of heat from a heating stove.
•Requiring every school room or be furnished with a thermometer.
•Mandating a "proper number" of shade trees on school grounds.
Cleaning up: Grove said he came across the 64-year-old sections of law through the course of his work on the Education Committee this session, and he thought, "Seriously?"
The rules made him think of a set of motorist laws, repealed in the 1990s, mandating people in vehicles to move to the side and disassemble their vehicles to yield right-of-way to horse-drawn carriages, he said.
The education-related rules are "nonsense" that school districts obviously don't use as guidelines, he said, and they bog down the Code.
"For me, this is a beginning of starting to clean those things up," he said. "Technically, those are all mandates on school districts."
Miller said legislators periodically spot and remove antiquated language.
"Every once in a while, for some reason, someone is looking at a certain portion of the law and realizes, 'This makes no sense,'" he said. "Every time any of the codes are republished, it's excess things you put in there. It makes it more difficult to read."
While outhouses and pot-bellied heating stoves were long replaced by modern sanitary and heating methods, Miller said technological developments pose constant challenges to the Legislature.
On Tuesday, legislators were mulling a proposal related to privacy concerns over camera-carrying "mini-helicopters," or hovercraft, that could be used to spy on people as they fly overhead, he said.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.