Federal bill introduced to fund Erin’s Law

Erin Merryn, a victim of sexual abuse as a child, spent two days in Juneau speaking to lawmakers. She is campaigning across the country for Erin’s Law -- House Bill 233 in Alaska -- which would require schools to implement sexual abuse education. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

Erin Merryn, a victim of sexual abuse as a child, campaigns across the country advocating for a law that would require schools to implement sexual abuse prevention education. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

Three U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would fund the implementation of Erin’s Law in states where it’s been adopted.

The bill would amend the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Act of 1965 and define standards sexual abuse awareness and prevention programs must meet to qualify for funding.

The bill requires the program’s curriculum “be based upon an assessment of objective data” in order to improve student safety and health, and to strengthen parent and community engagement. The program must also consider input from teachers, principals, school leaders and parents.

Programs funded by the grant would be required to undergo a periodic third-party evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the program. Schools would be required to use the results of the evaluation to improve their program.

The final clause in the bill prohibits the federal government from mandating, directing or controlling the programs developed by local schools.

The Alaska Legislature passed a version of Erin’s Law — the Alaska Safe Children’s Act — last month during a special session. The bill was first introduced during the 2014 session by Rep. Geran Tarr of Anchorage. The bill died in committee, but was reintroduced in 2015 by Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate.

After a thorough reworking and much controversy, the legislature passed the bill introduced by Rep. Charisse Millett, a Republican from Anchorage, during a special session in June.

U.S. Senate Bill 1665 was released just as Congress was breaking for the Fourth of July. Spokespersons for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young all said the lawmakers were looking forward to reviewing the bill.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, are sponsoring the bill.

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