ANCHORAGE – Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee passed a new version of a bill that includes Erin’s Law, which is a proven tool to prevent child sexual abuse. House Bill 44 also included language calling on public schools to teach students about how to prevent dating violence. The new version of the bill was amended by the Senate Education Committee, at the behest of Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), to bar organizations like Planned Parenthood from teaching students about sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. It also requires school districts to get parental permission before students can take classes about human reproduction or sexual matters. The new version of House Bill 44 also eliminates requirements for schools to offer college readiness tests.
Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) has been working on getting Erin’s Law passed for the last two years and sponsored one of the four pieces of legislation considered during the ongoing legislative session. Rep. Tarr was hopeful Governor Walker’s decision to add Erin’s Law to the call for the Special Session would result in prompt passage by the House and Senate.
“Senator Dunleavy has taken a non-partisan bill to protect future generations of Alaskans from being sexually abused and changed it so dramatically that I can no longer support it,” said Rep. Tarr. “To add language from bills that haven’t received a single hearing is an abuse of the process. The public is outraged by these actions.”
Erin’s Law is named for child sex abuse survivor Erin Merryn who is working to get the law passed in all 50 states. Merryn visited Alaska last year to testify before the Alaska Legislature and she has been following the developments with the bill this session.
“The new version of House Bill 44 is no longer Erin’s Law and I won’t consider it a success if this bill is passed,” said Merryn. “Senator Dunleavy and the members of the Senate Education committee who supported this action have twisted the purpose of Erin’s law and are playing politics with children’s lives.”
Erin’s Law requires school districts to teach youth about personal body safety in an attempt to give them the kinds of information to keep them safe from child sex abusers. The previous version of H.B. 44 also included language requiring school districts to teach students about dating violence.
Alaska Governor Bill Walker called for passage of “Erin’s Law” during his State of the State address and he included the bill on the call for the ongoing Special Session after the Senate failed to take action on the version of the bill that passed the House in April.