State of the Union: Wrap-up

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On the Wednesday January 31st, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

President Donald Trump called on Congress to permanently fix the nation’s immigration system in his first official State-of-the-Union Address Tuesday night.  Trump indicated that his main duty was to protect Americans and talked about immigrant gangs coming into the country who had harmed Americans.  Trump also wants to find a solution to the DACA issue — foreign born people who were brought to the U.S. as children but could be deported if Congress doesn’t meet a March deadline.

President Trump’s State-of-the-Union was one of the longest in history.  He spent most of it touting successes during his first year in office.  Trump pointed to the massive tax cut for businesses and individuals he signed into law last month and heralded the booming economy — saying the stock market had set records and unemployment was low.

The president called for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure upgrade and a build-up of the military.

Democratic members of Congress in the audience were cool to Trump’s speech.  Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey said “Donald Trump’s presidency has been a series of broken promises to the middle class and workers, a fact which tonight’s address did not change.”

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk we discuss the State-of-the Union with David O’Connell, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Dickinson College and Kyle Kopko, Associate Professor of Political Science at Elizabethtown College.

We encourage you to weigh in on how you see the state of the union as well.

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Kyle Kopko, Associate Professor of Political Science at Elizabethtown College / David O’Connell, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Dickinson College


State of the Union – 

I was most shocked by this line, which appears to be making an argument for letting politics determine who can work for government:

“So tonight I call on Congress to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust, or fail the American people.”

 I haven’t hear much comment on this, but his words are so decisive, I’m not sure why we’re not paying more attention. – Tim

While democrats and republicans have plenty to disagree about, there were points in the speech that both sides can agree on. It’s a shame that the democrats official response to the speech couldn’t leap on at least one point. We are all very aware of our differences of opinions. Let’s talk about what we agree on. Just ignore the non-starters and focus on getting infrastructure done! – Bill 

I haven’t heard anyone talk about the unspoken part of his speech.  What I saw in his body language spoke volumes.  He looked at the Republican side of the House for almost the entire speech EXCEPT when he was admonishing/chastising/challenging Democrats.  His eyes, his expressions were not welcoming or showed any interest in talking to Democrats.  He was physically only talking to Republicans, to those who he thinks approve of the agenda. – Jeff

Tax give away ruined an infrastructure bill.  New funding stream… de criminalize marijuana. – Chris

I noticed that the president’s wife, Melania, was not standing or applauding at least a few times when the cameras cut to her, the people around her were standing and applauding; do your guests know if “not standing” is a first lady tradition? – Listener

How does increasing nuclear arsenal make us safer? In fact, it makes us less safe? Does he expect to sell it all down the line? – Diane











Crime victim Constitutional proposal/Affordable or free college plan

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, January 30, 2018:

Should Pennsylvania’s Constitution be amended to provide more protections for crime victims and also keep them better informed about their cases?

Currently, the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution provides legal rights for individuals accused of a crime and those convicted of a crime. Yet, the U.S. Constitution and some state constitutions do not extend legal rights to victims of crime. Pennsylvania is one of those states without a Victims’ Rights Amendment to its Constitution.

It’s called Marsy’s Law for All and was named after Marsalee Nicholas, a California co-ed murdered by an ex-boyfriend.  Only a week later, her family members walked into a grocery store and were confronted by the accused murderer. They were not told that he had been released on bail.

Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm is a supporter of a Marsy’s Law in the state.  She’s appear on Tuesday’s Smart Talk, along with Christi Lane, a woman who witnessed the murders of her mother and grandmother 25 years ago.

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Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm

Also, The Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center proposed a plan last week that would make college and universities more affordable and maybe even free in some cases. The Pennsylvania Promise proposal attracted a lot of attention because it would effectively eliminate tuition for qualified students with family incomes of $110,000 a year or less.

Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center, joins us on Smart Talk to discuss details and how Pennsylvania would fund the $1 billion proposal.  Some suggestions include a severance tax on Marcellus shale and raising corporate and income taxes on higher earners.

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Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center / Daniel Lee – PA Student Power Network Member


– My mom’s house was robbed and everything of value she owned was stolen. They caught the guy and when she asked him where all of her belongings were a judge said that he did not have to tell her. It destroyed her to lose all of her family heirlooms not to mention she became very afraid of being in the house alone. We don’t think this is fair that she was unable to retrieve her belongings because the judge protected the thief. It was in the paper in Harrisburg

CASA Lancaster / PA’s Tobacco Grade


On the Monday January 29th, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

When children are mistreated by strangers or acquaintances, parents can usually be relied on to stand up for the child’s rights.  When that abuse comes form the parents, groups like Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, step in to advocate for the child.

CASA first developed in Seattle in the 1970’s; the Lancaster chapter began its development in 2005, taking its first case in 2010.  CASA Lancaster’s goal is to “provide a qualified and compassionate court-appointed volunteer advocate to every child who is abused and neglected, to ensure the fundamental human right of having a safe, nurturing, and permanent home is met.”

On Monday’s Smart Talk, we will discuss the role of court-appointed youth advocates with Melissa Leibig, Director of Community Outreach with CASA Lancaster and Jerry Gottlieb, a retired psychiatrist and CASA volunteer advocate.

We will also speak with Sandy Asher, a playwright who prepared The CASA Project: Stand Up for a Child, a dramatic reading of stories and poetry compiled from youths represented by CASA and CASA advocates and caseworkers.  The Casa Project will be presented Sunday, February 11th at the Congregation Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster.


Melissa Leibig, Director of Community Outreach with CASA Lancaster and Jerry Gottlieb, a retired psychiatrist and CASA volunteer advocate

Also, the American Lung Association just issued report cards grading states’ progress in discouraging tobacco use.  Pennsylvania didn’t do well.  The best grade drawn by the Commonwealth is a “C” for facilitating smoke-free air.

Funding of tobacco prevention and cessation programs: “F.”  Controlling sales to minors: “F.”  Access to cessation programs? “F.”  We got a “D” for tobacco tax rates.  22,000 Pennsylvanians died last year from smoking related deaths.  20% of the Keystone State uses tobacco.  32% of high-schoolers smoke or chew.  The state spent $6,383,194,368 in smoking-related healthcare costs.

Smart Talk will parse out the report’s findings and discuss what the state can do to cycle tobacco use out of our culture with Joy Meyer, Vice President of Community Impact for the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.


Joy Meyer, Vice President of Community Impact for the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic



Political Roundtable

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On the Friday January 26th, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

Many lawmakers were stunned this week when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the state’s congressional maps unconstitutional, and gave the legislature and governor just a few weeks to draw and pass new ones.

Some in Harrisburg have expressed doubt that they’ll be able to redraw the maps before the February 9 submission deadline. Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, called the task “borderline impossible.” If lawmakers take too long, the court has said it will choose a new map.

There’s also a possibility the US Supreme Court will issue a stay on the case, though it’s rare for a federal court to interfere in a state court matter. In their appeal to the higher court, Pennsylvania republicans argued that a stay would be justified because the state court’s decision violates the legislature’s constitutionally-protected ability to draw congressional maps.

The state court has yet to issue its full opinion on the case, which will go into more detail about why five of the seven judges decided the current maps are illegally gerrymandered.

A previous ruling from a federal district court and an opinion from a lower state court judge found the maps to be constitutional.

WITF Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer hosts, and Keystone Crossroads’ Emily Previti and Marc Levy of the Associated Press join us for a detailed discussion about what we’ve learned since Monday’s unprecedented ruling, and what we still don’t know.

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Marc Levy of the Associated Press / Keystone Crossroads’ Emily Previti / WITF Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer

Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System / PA counties’ priorities

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On the Thursday January 25th, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

Most people don’t know much about the juvenile justice system.  One of the reasons is that unlike adult criminal court, court proceedings and records are not open to the public.  The idea is to protect the identity of the young person accused of a crime or breaking the law.

There are other differences too.  A single judge hears juvenile cases with no jury.  The probation department, prosecutors and defense attorneys often work together to determine what’s best for the young person while taking crime victims and public safety into account as well.

Last year, WITF was given unique access into Cumberland’s County’s juvenile justice system, including following one young woman in the system for six months.

This Friday, WITF-PBS will broadcast  Real Life Real Issues: Juvenile Justice, looking behind-the-scenes at the state’s system as a juvenile offender navigates the often precarious landscape of juvenile justice.  On Thursday’s Smart Talk, we discuss juvenile justice in the state with Cumberland County juvenile public defender Ron Turo and Cumberland County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Sam Miller.

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Cumberland County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Sam Miller / Cumberland County juvenile public defender Ron Turo

We’ll also speak with Adam Rupert, a recipient of the Hoffer Second Chance Scholarship, awarded to outstanding college students who had once been involved in the juvenile justice system.

Also, county commissioners across Pennsylvania are planning their 2018 agendas.  On the docket include ways of dealing with the opioid crisis, funding for county services including first responders and stabilizing revenues and spending.  Smart Talk will discuss county commissioner plans with Douglas Hill, Executive Director of the County Commssioners Association of Pennsylvania and Lancaster County Commissioner Dennis Stuckey.


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Douglas Hill, Executive Director of the County Commssioners Association of Pennsylvania / Lancaster County Commissioner Dennis Stuckey


Improving STEM Education

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On the Wednesday January 24th, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

The careers and jobs of tomorrow will increasingly rely on science, technology, and math skills.  Throw in engineering and STEM education becomes even more essential when preparing students for their futures.  But are students receiving the quality STEM educations they need to thrive and compete?

The National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 report, released last week, found that the United States is the global leader in science and technology (S&T). However, the U.S. global share of S&T activities is declining as other nations — especially China — continue to rise.  And American students are scoring only in the middle-of-the-pack compared to other nations in science and math.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced the creation of a STEM ecosystem.  It consist of collaborations between educators, businesses, museums and science centers and community organizations to help cultivate and nurture student engagement with STEM studies.  It is the fifth such effort in the nation.

However, standards that include STEM subjects were devised during the 1990s in Pennsylvania.  Much has changed in technology since then.  Is it time for an update?

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we look at how STEM education has or hasn’t kept up with the lightening pace of tech advances  with Jeff Remington, a science teacher at Palmyra Middle School and a National Science Teachers Association / National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Teacher Ambassador.  We will also be joined by Dr. Christine Royce, a professor of education at Shippensburg University and President of the National Science Teachers Association.

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Jeff Remington – Palmyra Middle School science teacher and National Science Teachers Association-National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Teacher Ambassador / Dr. Christine Royce – professor of education, Shippensburg University and President of the National Science Teachers Association


– 1. The US will never be a STEM leader until we spend more than 45 minutes every other day on science in elementary school. This is the reality if my fourth grader. The science that is taught is totally unconnected to any other curriculum.

2. I appreciate STEAM, the A standing for Art. Art is so closely related to science and those whose minds excel in science often excel in art. I worked with many students at Carnegie Mellon University who proved that point again and again.                               – Theresa, Mt. Joy

– Could the guests comment on the importance of a STEM curriculum being included in the very early years of education – like in Pre-K.  I’ve seen studies showing how the seeds of science and math begin in those early years.    – Steve, Lebanon

– Mr. Remington was my science teacher in 2001, and one of my favorite teachers.  While I didn’t end up in the STEM field, he inspired a lifetime curiosity and a love for learning.  Quality STEM teachers are so important for inspiring a passion for science and a desire to pursue careers in the STEM fields.  We need to focus on the problem public schools are having finding and retaining quality young educators (i.e. cost of college education, school funding, teacher pay).                                                                                – Nick, Wormleysburg

– Regarding emphasis in Biology. Biology is THE building block for many of the important medical fields, whether as a physician or nurse; or for much of the research being conducted to find cures for many of rhe horrific diseases we are battling in the 21st century, such as cancer, alzheimers, cystic fibrosis.  – Edward, Strasburg

– Scott – the original State Board of Ed policy on Keystone Exams were to include tests in Chemistry and Physics. Funding and the testing backlash forced these tests to be put on the back burner.         – Jim Buckheit, Former Exec Director, State Board of Ed

– Could your guests give their thoughts  on the recent inclusion of arts in STEM?    – GK

– As background, I have a minor in engineering, but majored in History. I went to to get my PhD in History and have taught college for ten years at two institutions. I have great respect  for my collegues in STEM, but there’s a reason that the liberal arts curricula at universities demand students understand more than just the technical skills required for a job. They will have responsiblities as citizens and as people, where things are important, but can’t necessarily be quantified. How does this STEM push cooexist with these skills where what matters can’t be measured?  – Ed

Court says boundaries gerrymandered/Government Shutdown / Campus Hunger

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On the Tuesday January 23rd, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled the state’s 18 Congressional district boundaries unconstitutional.  The decision concludes that the Republican majority legislature gerrymandered the districts in order to benefit Republican candidates.  The justices — ruling just days after oral arguments in the case, also state in their order that a new map will be in place by February 19 to use for Pennsylvania’s primary election in May.

Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti has been following the case and appears on Tuesday’s Smart Talk.

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Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti

Meanwhile, Republicans blamed Democrats for the federal government shutdown over the weekend while Democrats pointed a collective finger at Republicans.  In the meantime, many government offices were closed and important issues like spending and immigration weren’t being dealt with.  Although both parties say the bickering was over priorities, but was it really?

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk, we look into the shutdown more depth with Dr. G. Terry Madonna, Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. He is also the Director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll.

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Dr. G. Terry Madonna, Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College

While many think of college cuisine as a never-ending buffet of ramen, pizza and campus fare, the truth is a large number of two and four year college students go through their school day dealing with chronic hunger.  A 2016 study of 3,765 students in 12 states found that nearly half experienced a level of food insecurity during the previous month; 22% experiencing levels low enough to categorize them as “hungry.”

Campus food insecurity is tied to other problems for students; homelessness or housing insecurity, inability to buy books and other classroom materials and difficulty making class or completing assignments.  Many work 20 or more hours a week, though 75% of the respondents receive financial aid.  A quarter grew up on SNAP.

Pennsylvania colleges are addressing the issue of campus hunger by starting food distribution programs on more than half on the state’s public college campuses.  Millersville University initiated their Campus Cupboard in 2015 to meet the need of students with hunger; the collaboration with the United Campus Ministry at First United Methodist Church in Lancaster has helped students focus on their studies rather than their next meal by providing food to create meals throughout the week.

Smart Talk will discuss the crisis of hunger on college campuses with Ed Weber, director of United Campus Ministry, the non-profit that manages the pantry  and Clare Cady, director of the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), a national organization providing support to campuses and students.

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Ed Weber – Millersville University Campus Minister / Clare Cady – director, College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA)

**SHIPPENSBURG UNIVERSITY has opened a Food Pantry with nonperishable food items available to all students who have a need.This is a safe zone located in the Spiritual Center. Please bring your student ID and speak to the student manager, Rev. Jan Bye, or Roxanne Dennis for assistance.  The food bank hours are 4 -7 pm, Monday through Thursday.

Food resources in the Shippensburg Community:

King’s Kettle, 30 N. Fayette St., Free food items, Schedule: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Tuesdays of each month from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm.

Shippensburg Produce and Outreach, 130 S. Penn St.| Free fresh fruit and produce, Tuesdays from 4 pm – 6 pm.

For a calendar of free meals open to all in Shippensburg, visit  If you have other needs contact the office of the Vice President in Old Main.


– We have elected politicians to represent us and not leaders, they think that they are so far above everyone else. I would like to see all of us proletariat shut down just for a day. The government shuts down for a weekend and everything is fine. What if working class Americans just called in sick for a day, and we let the government stay open?                          – Thomas

– You miss the point of the short deadline.  For a fair process, that’s plenty of time.  Imagine if the leaders sat down and said, “We have to draw a map that’s fair or the court is going to do it for us”

Having spent 30 years in a courtroom, i can promise you that parties become extremely reasonable right before trial when they know a judge will make a decisiion for them if they can’t figure it out themselves.

Fair maps are already part of teh court record.  They just have to pick one   – Daniel, York

– The redistricting case was based on the PENNSYLVANIA constitution, while the others going through the federal courts are based on the US Constitution. Why would the Supreme Court have any business getting involved? Can’t a state redistrict as long as it does not discriminate?         – Lee, York

Flu Season / Retail and Robots

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On the Monday January 22nd, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

The United States is in the grip of a vicious flu epidemic; the CDC reports Americans are visiting hospitals with flu-like symptoms at the rate of 22.7 per 100,000.  32 deaths in Pennsylvania have been attributed to the virus; CDC tracking shows the influenza A – H3N2 strain has been recorded in every state in the nation for the first time since 2004.

Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable – 20 pediatric deaths have been recorded since the beginning of the 2017-18 flu season.  Health officials are encouraging everybody to get flu shots and to see a doctor and avoid contact with others if symptoms surface.

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Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with the Pennsylvania Department of Health

On Monday’s Smart Talk, we’ll discuss flu prevention, minimizing the contagion and what to do if symptoms persist with Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Dr. Creston Tate, medical director of WellSpan Urgent Care.


Also, the internet has been applying pressure on brick and mortar retail businesses for years and now modern technologies are increasing the squeeze on retail jobs.  Automated self-check out systems and robotic inventory control may prove cost effective for large retailers, but their employees aren’t as optimistic about the benefits of those technologies.

CVS Pharmacies have implemented automated checkouts at 448 locations and many fast-food restaurants are experimenting with automated kiosks.  Walmart is using automated cashiers that can count eight bills a second, 3,000 coins a minute and electronically deposit the money in the bank.

A 2017 report compiled by the Cornerstone Capital Group predicts automation will eventually displace 30 to 50% of retail employees leading to a loss of seven million jobs, creating a class identified as “stranded workers.”  Women are especially vulnerable as they make up 73% of the retail cashier employees in the US.

Smart Talk will discuss the report with one of its authors, Sebastian Vanderzeil, Director and Global Thematic Analyst with Cornerstone Capital Group.  We’ll also be joined by PA State Representative Mike Schlossberg (D-Allentown) who is spearheading efforts to research and retrain a workforce ready to handle accelerated automation and Wendell Young, IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, will discuss the union’s efforts to prepare retail and food workers for this new paradigm in commerce.

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Sebastian Vanderzeil, Director and Global Thematic Analyst with Cornerstone Capital Group / PA State Representative Mike Schlossberg (D-Allentown) / Wendell Young, IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776



Marshal killed in Harrisburg/New Mayor of York

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On the Friday January 19th, 2017 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

Arrest warrants are served everyday — usually without incident.  But that’s not what happened Thursday morning when U.S. Marshals and local police attempted to serve a warrant in Harrisburg — only to be met with gunfire from an upstairs window.  In the shootout, 45-year-old U.S. Deputy Marshal Christopher Hill was killed and York City police officer Kyle Pitts — a member of a fugitive from justice task force — was wounded.


Deputy US Marshal Christopher Hill / First responders salute Marshal Hill (photos: PennLive)

The investigation is continuing but what we do know is the shooter was shot and killed by police.  He was not named on the arrest warrant.  That was for a woman living in the house, who was taken into custody.

Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo is on Friday’s Smart Talk to provide details on the incident.

Also, Republican State Senator Mike Regan of York County worked as a U.S. Marshal before running for elective office.  He was a colleague of Deputy Hill and joins us.

York residents turned showed up at City Hall in sub-freezing temperatures early this month to watch Michael Helfrich sworn in as the 25th mayor of the city.  Helfrich defeated incumbent mayor Kim Bracey in November, after losing to her in the May primary but just over 300 votes.

Helfrich previously served on the York City Council as president; he started his public service career addressing environmental needs in York County.  He became an advocate for clean waters in the 1980’s and protested industrial polluting in area creeks.  This led to a successful council run in 2011.  A 1991 drug conviction has led to multiple challenges to his eligibility for a seat on the council and more recently for the mayor’s office; Helfrich faced down those challenges.

As he begins his term, Helfrich will need to deal with several issues confronting the City of York; an ongoing opioid crisis, an aging population with increasing healthcare needs, an economy that ranks York the 10th poorest city in PA in a PennLive survey and an unemployment rate nearly twice the national average.

Mayor Helfrich joins us on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss both the challenges facing him as York’s mayor and some of the successes in the community he is looking to build on.

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York Mayor Michael Helfrich


Epidemic of sexual assaults on people with intellectual disabilities

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, January 18, 2018:

Allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein last October spawned the #MeToo movement.  Since then, thousands of women (and many men) have publicly talked about being assaulted or harassed.  We as a society have learned just how widespread sexual misconduct is.

Much of the attention has focused on the well-known and powerful men who committed the acts and disrespected women and men.

What wasn’t discussed until last week was that the most vulnerable members of our society are the victims of sexual assault most often.  NPR has produced a groundbreaking series that tells the story of people with intellectual disabilities who are sexually assaulted.  NPR reported U.S. Department of Justice statistics that show people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted than people without disabilities.  It is a crime that often goes unreported and not prosecuted.  A little more than a third of sexual assaults reported in Pennsylvania when the victim was a person with an intellectual disability were confirmed.  That’s much higher than some other states.

Thursday’s Smart Talk discusses sexual assault and people with disabilities.  Our guests are Nancy Thaler, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Developmental Programs at Pennsylvania Department of Human Services; Kristen Houser, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape; and Maureen Cronin, Executive Director of The ARC of Pennsylvania.

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Nancy Thaler – Deputy Secretary, Office of Developmental Programs, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services / Maureen Cronin – Executive Director, The ARC of Pennsylvania / Kristen Houser – Chief Public Affairs Officer, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape