Erin’s Law creator speaks out against new changes by Legislature
Updated Wednesday, May 20 at 10 p.m.
Butch and Cindy Moore, whose daughter Breanna was killed in South Anchorage last year, once again testified in front of legislators in support of making sexual assault and teen dating violence awareness a mandatory class in schools.
“We have a lot of different curriculums that are either free or extremely low cost,” said Cindy Moore during her testimony before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. “We do not have to reinvent the wheel on this.”
House Bill 44 passed the House during regular session but was stalled in the Senate. The Moores say a small change in the language of the bill has rendered it powerless. The version they supported said school districts “shall adopt and implement a policy” to teach students K-12 about sexual assault awareness and prevention. The bill before the committee on Tuesday says school districts “may adopt,” providing an opt-out.
“That totally and completely changes the purpose of HB 44,” Cindy Moore said. “Why are we letting certain districts teach this and not others?”
Butch Moore was angry at the committee’s action to combine other bills into HB 44.
“Not two items but 22 — it’s a thousand percent overloaded,” Butch Moore said.
The Senate Committee substitute wraps in bills related to parental rights and student testing, something Butch Moore says will result in HB 44 failing.
“I’m asking you to come back to the original version that makes it mandatory for school districts to teach this,” he said.
The Moores aren’t the only ones concerned by the changes to the bill.
“While each bill included in this re-write may have individual merits, I don’t believe that the additions to the bill meet the goal that it represented when it passed the House: keeping Alaska’s children safe from sexual abuse and dating violence,” said Majority Leader Charisse Millett in a statement. “Additionally, I am concerned that language was included to allow for school districts to opt out of sexual abuse and dating violence curriculum. Keeping Alaska’s children safe should not be optional, and I worry that the original curricula loses its effectiveness with this ‘opt-out’ language.”
In an interview Wednesday, Erin Merryn — a child sexual abuse survivor, activist and who the bill is named after — said if the watered-down legislation becomes law she will not consider Alaska a state that has passed Erin’s Law. More than a dozen states have passed versions of Erin’s Law.
“I’m livid right now, hearing this,” Merryn said in a Wednesday morning phone conversation.
Without the school mandate part of the bill, she says she doubts many schools in Alaska will teach students about sexual assault awareness and prevention.
“Because having it optional any state can do that,” Merryn said. “Schools aren’t going to do it if you leave it optional.”
Merryn noted that she is OK with a parental opt-out option. The bill is not meant to take away parents’ rights, she says.
“I would love to keep this conversation in the home, and not put it onto the teachers’ and schools’ responsibility,” Merryn said. “But the reality is 93 percent of the time, kids are being abused by someone they know and trust.”
–Hope Miller contributed reporting.
Contact Kate McPherson at email@example.com.
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