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Texas school districts are now required to teach students about dating violence, family violence, child abuse and sex trafficking after a new law comes into effect in early December.
But advocates fear that a last-minute change in the language of the law will mean children who need information the most will be the least likely to get it.
In June, Governor Greg Abbott vetoed the original version of the bill, fearing it would allow parental involvement. During the Second Special Session, lawmakers passed a revised version of the law that included Abbott’s contribution.
Parents are now required to sign an authorization form for their students to be educated on these topics, raising concerns that children who may be the victims of parent abuse will be excluded from receiving treatment. information likely to help them.
State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, helped develop both versions of the bill. He said he had given a lot of thought to the impact this new provision could have.
âBut the reality is that I cannot pass the bill without having this option,â he said. “And so I think the greatest good is served by passing the compromise bill with the governor to make sure we touch as many lives as possible.”
From all-in to opt-in
The law, known as the “Christine Blubaugh Act,” is named after a 16-year-old girl who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in Grand Prairie, Texas in 2000. The original legislation, which did not require no parental permission, had bipartisan support, and passed the Senate on a 29-2 vote. Sponsors of the bill said they were shocked when the governor vetoed it.
“At least when the governor [Rick] Perry had objections about certain things his legislative staff would work with your team to deal with the objection, âsaid State Representative Rafael AnchÃa, D-Dallas. “But that doesn’t appear to be the same course of action as Governor Abbott.”
In a statement to the Texas Tribune, a spokesperson for Abbott said the governor said he cares deeply about the rights of parents, as well as the safety of children.
“There were good intentions in [the original bill] but the bill did not recognize the right of parents to withdraw their children from education, âsaid press secretary Renae Eze. âAfter being promulgated by the governor, middle and high school students will now receive instruction on preventing child abuse, family violence and dating violence, while ensuring parents’ rights in their education. child.
West and AnchÃa worked with Abbott’s office to draft new legislation, which states that districts must obtain written consent from a student’s parents before offering them training on dating violence, domestic violence and child abuse.
As a parent of two high school students, AnchÃa said he encouraged all parents to sign documents to register their students for the course.
âAs a parent, I am not trained in these interventions or these tools,â he said. “So I really want someone who understands them, who knows what they’re doing, to be able to communicate that information to my child.”
Advocates encourage parents to register
Advocates say there has been increased attention in recent years to helping students identify and prevent family and dating violence – but there is still work to be done.
Roy Rios, head of prevention for the Texas Council on Family Violence, said there are many evidence-based and age-appropriate curricula for family and dating violence that are used in state school districts.
These classes teach students about healthy relationships, give them a vocabulary for understanding violence, and direct them to resources and places to seek help. But Rios said much of the training was aimed at helping students embrace their leadership skills to be a good spectator and a member of the community.
âThey take these classes with them in college, or as they go through their adult lives,â Rios said. âWhat we’re finding through research is that these types of programs educate young people on how to avoid victimization and how not to commit violence in their lives.
He hopes the new law will give every student access to this education. But he and other advocates fear that forcing parents to register will narrow the scope.
Some students may simply fall through the cracks, especially those who do not live with their parents or forget to have documents signed. Some parents may not want their children to be educated about child abuse, especially if they are the perpetrators. Others may not want to admit that their child may be experiencing dating violence.
âIt’s not great to hear that as adults we are often not aware of all the dynamics in a young person’s life,â said Rios. âBut what we do know is that young people are talking to each other. Often it takes the support of peer networks to understand how to intervene, how to provide support to a young survivor.
Heather Bellino is executive director of the Texas Advocacy Project, a domestic violence legal advocacy group. She is also a parent and has said that she appreciates the need for parents to contribute in what their children are learning.
âAs a parent, it’s your heart that wanders outside your body and you want to protect it in any way you can,â she said. “But sometimes, protecting in any way you can means stretching a bit outside your comfort zone.”
She implores parents to educate themselves about these issues and to enroll their students in the program.
âWithdrawing from this training,â she said, âwill not prevent your child from being abused. “