Sen. Mike Dunleavy took a lot of heat for his recent overhaul of House Bill 44, a bill that’s been re-branded as the Alaska Safe Children’s Act, also known as Erin’s law – named for Erin Merryn, an Illinois woman on a national campaign to put sexual abuse awareness programs in every school.
Last year Dunleavy was among the senators who voted unanimously to pass Erin’s Law. But the House did not take it up in the final days of the session, so it died.
This year, four similar child sexual abuse prevention bills were introduced. HB 44, which eventually became the main vehicle for Erin’s law and passed the House, included a new component – Bree’s Law, which would also require schools to teach older students about dating violence.
Dunleavy says, given Alaska’s current budget crisis, he feels the state can no longer afford Erin’s law — that it would be wrong to mandate sexual abuse prevention in schools, if funding is being cut.
In Dunleavy’s rewrite of the bill, which passed the Senate Education committee in Special Session, school participation would be optional. Dunleavy also included language that would make it easier for families to pull their children out of child sexual abuse education programs, which he says is necessary to protect parental rights.
Dunleavy’s committee substitute bill also adds things to the bill that have nothing to do with child sexual abuse prevention.
Erin’s Law supporters say Dunleavy’s changes have effectively killed the bill.
They also accused Dunleavy of using the issue to promote his possible challenge of Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the upcoming Republican primary.
Dunleavy defended his position in a Facebook posting.
KTVA’s Frontiers host, Rhonda McBride, spoke with Dunleavy about the changes to HB 44 for this week’s Frontiers program. Watch this extended interview.