Woman behind Erin’s Law travels to Ohio, trying to break deadlock over sexual abuse prevention instruction bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Erin Merryn, a Chicago-area resident behind an Ohio bill that would require public schools to provide age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention instruction, said Tuesday to a Senate committee that 37 states had so far passed Erin’s Law.

Merryn, who went to the Ohio Statehouse to testify about her bill, said she didn’t want Ohio to be last. Her husband grew up in suburban Columbus and she spent time in the state.

“Ohio is one of 13 that hasn’t,” she said. “This is my third time testifying here. Seven years ago, I came to testify before a House committee, where it passed. I return year after year, testifying on the bill.

House Bill 105also known as Erin’s Law, was stalled in the Senate after the House passed the legislation last June.

The Center for Christian Virtue, a conservative public policy and lobbying organization, circulated an amendment that would require the instruction to emphasize abstinence before marriage, discourage transgender students from gender-affirming care, to prohibit the simulation of sexual acts and to demonstrate the use of contraception. , as well as other prohibitions inspired by the culture wars. Opponents of the amendment say the amendment diverts attention from child sexual abuse and could cause shame and other psychological harm.

Two men sexually abused Merryn as a child. She suffered from an eating disorder and behavioral issues as a result. The adults had told her about the “stranger danger”, but no one told her that most people who sexually abuse children are most likely people they know, she said.

She said months after the bill took effect in New York, children at one school received training and some admitted they were being abused.

“These nine kids were all pointing the finger at the same man, not a stranger, but the principal,” she said.

Merryn testified before the Ohio Senate Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education. Not all committee members agreed with his bill.

Ashtabula County Republican Senator Sandra O’Brien, a committee member, said she was concerned about how the sex abuse instruction would ruin a child’s innocence.

“I’m sorry for what happened to you,” she told Merryn. “There is evil in the world, and there always will be evil. I am concerned about the elimination of the innocence of our young children. I am very concerned about this. So my question is: do you know who is going to develop or have a say in this program? Will it be Planned Parenthood or one of their affiliates?

Planned Parenthood does not have a child sexual abuse curriculum, but it does have a sex education curriculum. The Center for Christian Virtue told people they didn’t want Planned Parenthood involved.

Merryn replied that she didn’t want Planned Parenthood involved either. Many states use curriculum provided by local child advocacy centers, many of which already have teaching materials.

O’Brien responded that even though there is a parental opt-out clause in the bill, “my experience with disadvantaged low-income students, many, many students live in homes where the person with who they live in just doesn’t really have time to put in the effort to look at the current curriculum in their school district,” she said. “And again, I’m very concerned about the possibility of ruining or losing the innocence of our young children. I am terribly concerned about this. But thank you for your testimony.

Brenner said after the committee hearing that the bill could potentially provide the Ohio Department of Education with safeguards on how it would develop a model curriculum for teaching sexual abuse prevention. on children.

In Ohio, local school districts choose the program. But the Ohio Department of Education has a model curriculum for them to use.

The bill will likely be amended in the Senate. It remains to be seen whether the sponsors of the bill in the House will accept these amendments, which would end the impasse.

State Sen. Andrew Brenner, a Delaware County Republican who chairs the Senate K-12 Education Committee, who heard testimony from Merryn on Tuesday, said he continues to speak with House sponsors .

There’s a chance the bill will move forward in November or December of this year, Brenner said.

Brenner asked Merryn if she would be okay with amendments to her bill that would allow parents to remove their children from instruction to protect student privacy and provide more transparency to the program. The bill currently allows parents to inspect the program prior to instruction.

Merryn said she was okay with the potential changes.

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