Friday, May 29, 2015

My Math Says At Least 2000 Kids Will Be Abused Because Of Dunleavy's Changes To Erin's Law

On May 24, Senator Dunleavy posted a long response on Facebook to the critics of his changes to HB 44, now CS HB 44. 

I've responded to it already here.  But as he continues to defend himself, I thought it would be useful to focus on what I think is the only real issue here:  the number of kids who will be molested because of the changes he made to the Erin's Law.  He argues he hasn't weakened the bill at all.  I truly can't fathom how he has come up with that conclusion.  Well, I've tried and I posted one possible explanation.  Here, I'm going to address this issue about the number of kids.  Then below, I've copied his long Facebook defense with my responses, paragraph by paragraph.

There's only one issue: 

(The only other possible issue is that without the changes, the bill wouldn't have passed.  But since it's already passed the House and the clean version passed the Senate last year unanimously, I think that argument can't seriously be made.)

In my mind, there is only one issue that matters when discussing the changes in Erin's Law that Senator Dunleavy's committee has made:  How will these changes impact the number of kids who will be molested because they did not get taught at school - because of Erin's Law - how to recognize potential abusers and their grooming techniques, how to say no, and that it's not their fault and so they need to tell an authority (parents, teachers, police, etc.) what happened.

Erin's Law, the original HB 44 amended to include teen dating violence awareness education, had the following features:
1.  School districts were required to use this program
2.  It covered kids in grades K-12
3.  If parents did not want their kids to participate, they had to say they did not give permission (opt out)

Now, the Erin's Law section of the Senate Education Committee Substitute for HB 44 has the following features:
1.  School districts are not required to implement the program
2.  It covers grades 7-12 only
3.  Kids cannot get this program unless their parents give them permission (opt in)

Just these changes alone will reduce the number of kids who participate in this program.  We can argue about how many kids will be affected.  Dunleavy tells us that 20+ school districts of 53 are already offering some version of this training.  I've looked at the list and it includes the largest districts - Anchorage, Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Juneau.  Thus while it's less than half the school districts, it's more than half the kids.  So, well over half the students are in school districts that do some of this.  The list doesn't tell us what is content is covered or whether it is K-12 or just 7-12.

Let's do some rough numbers.  Census data tells us that as of 2013 25.6% of the 736,732 people in Alaska are under 18.  That means in 2013 there were 188,600 kids in Alaska.  Of these 7.5% were under five and so not in school.  That comes to 133,348 school age kids and there would be  more now.   For argument's sake (and I'll be conservative with the numbers I offer) let's suppose that 30% of those kids are NOT getting sexual assault awareness training at school now.  That would mean about 40,000 kids. 

Currently, schools have the power to adopt such training or not.  One has to assume that those who are supportive have adopted it.  The others, for whatever reason, have not.  Now that this bill has been changed from mandatory to optional for schools, there's no reason to think that a lot of them will suddenly change their positions on this.  But to be charitable, let's say that 50% of the kids who aren't getting this, will be covered next year because the schools voluntarily adopt it.  And, again being charitable, let's assume those schools offer it to kids in K-12.

That still leaves 20,000 kids who won't get exposed to sexual abuse awareness training.

The numbers that proponents of Erin's Law have cited were 1/4 of girls and 1/6 of boys will be molested by the time they are 18.  ('Molested' a wide array of actions from being flashed to groped to raped.  And these events often continue over years.)  I didn't hear anyone challenge those numbers, but again, I'll be charitable and round it off to one out of ten.  Among the 20,000 kids not getting Erin's Law training, 10% would be 2,000 kids who will be molested because they were not given access to sexual abuse awareness.  I think my number is low because I've been very conservative with my hypotheticals and because Alaska's rate of abuse is higher than the national average.   I acknowledge that Erin's Law education won't prevent all sexual abuse of kids.  But Erin Merryn testified that she's been given anecdotal reports from police where the law is in place that they have been told by kids that it mattered and that statistics on abuse have dropped.  (And given the higher awareness for such crimes, often the numbers go up, not down, because more people report.)

This is the low-ball statistical impact of the changes that Dunleavy has made to the original HB 44.  There is a direct relationship between the changes that were made and this figure of 2,000 kids who will not be prepared to evade molestation because of those changes.  This is just for the first year. Even if the number were 'only' 1000, it would be horrific.  And each of these kids will have emotional and psychological damage that will lead to extra work for teachers, law enforcement, the courts, not to mention their families. 

Despite Dunleavy's claims that other parts of the bill make it a better bill, none of those changes strengthen the original intent or will get a single more kid into sexual abuse awareness classes. One could argue (and I do below) that some weaken it.

Because Dunleavy has insisted on watering down the bill and burdening it with 22 more sections, he will bear responsibility for every molestation that the original bill would have prevented.  He can say what he wants, but there is a very direct correlation between his actions here and the future abuse of a large number of kids in Alaska.  Whether that number is 500, 1000, or 2000, each one is his responsibility. 

Dunleavy has not given equivalent benefits that his changes will cause that would offset the damage to these kids.  He talks broadly about parental rights, but never identifies specific harm passing the original Erin's Law would have caused. 

The only possible way Dunleavy could be excused from this responsibility is if he could prove that the original bill would not have passed the full Senate.  Since it the passed the Senate unanimously last year, I think that proving it would have failed this year would be a difficult task.

From my perspective the impact on Alaska kids is the only thing that is important in this discussion.  What other states do, abstract benefits of parental rights, unspecified unfunded mandates, and the other things Dunleavy offers are just not relevant.

So that's my case here.   If I'm wrong here, show me.  My numbers are conservative.  It's Dunleavy's job, if he wants to refute this, to show how passing the original HB 44 his committee got for a vote , would have caused greater harm because it didn't have his amendments.  I have a good imagination, but I can't see how he can do much more than shuffle words around.  Nothing that changes the numbers.   

Below are Dunleavy's original Facebook Post and my comments paragraph by paragraph.  I've put Dunleavy's words in blue and mine in black. 

The Committee Substitute (CS) for HB 44 known as “The Alaska Safe Children’s Act” by some and “Erin’s Law” by others was introduced in the Senate Education Committee that I chair on Tuesday. [May 19] The CS was heard and adopted by the Senate Education Committee and moved out to the next committee of referral, Senate Finance. A Senate Finance hearing has not been scheduled yet but I do anticipate one will be in the next few days. If the bill is passed out of Senate Finance, it will then go to the Senate Rules committee and soon after most likely to the Senate floor for a vote. If approved by the Senate it would go to the House for a vote as well.

Pretty straightforward so far.  He figures it will be scheduled in the Finance committee "in the next few days."  As I publish this on May 29 the HB 44 Timeline still has May 21  referral to Finance as the last date is mentioned..  I can't find where it has been scheduled.  

The CS for HB 44 has been the topic of much discussion this week. The focus of the discussion seems to center on the following:
• The belief that the change from the word “shall” to “may” with regard to compelling school districts to mandate the training will make the law, if not meaningless, less effective, because school districts would not be required to implement the training – it would be optional and give local districts local control
• The concern that the CS has too many new sections and topics than what was in the original HB 44.
Point 1 - There were two levels of concern.   One, as Dunleavy mentions, changing the requirement  for school districts from 'shall' to 'may.'  But people were also concerned that parental option changed from allowing parents to opt out (they were required to say they wanted their kids to NOT participate in the program) to opting in (they are required to give permission before their kids can participate.)  A third significant change was to eliminate K-6 kids from getting sexual awareness education.  These ages are the most vulnerable and least able to defend themselves.  They need this the most.

Point 2 - It wasn't simply that there were too many new sections.  If they believed the sections  strengthened the bill, I believe supporters of Erin's Law would not have objected.  In fact they went along with the addition of a new section that mandated teen dating violence curriculum.
The concern was a) that there were so many new amendments (the bill now has 23 sections, one of which is the original bill)  that had little or nothing to do with Erin's Law; b) that some of the amendments (in addition to the Erin's Law section mentioned above) that were aimed at parental rights actually hurt kids' chances of getting sexual abuse awareness education; and c) some of the new sections had controversial provisions such as prohibiting schools from contracting with agencies that provide abortions.  They even prohibit school service providers from having non-school related contracts with abortion providers. (This seems to conflict with the US Constitution's guarantee of freedom of association.) 
Let me explain why the changes to the CS were made. With regard to changing “shall” to “may”, this change was made at the request of school districts that testified at hearings that we had during the regular session. Their concern was that with potential budgets cuts and possible staff reductions, making the training mandatory in law now before we know what the budget will be could put the districts in a difficult spot in deciding how to use their limited resources. As one school official said, “We agree this training will be good for kids, but will we have the funds to implement it?” Another asked, “With budgets being cut, what do we give up to make room for new trainings such as this?”
Another thing that warranted the change was the issue of which curriculum or program to use, and more importantly, which is most effective? While this issue of identifying available, effective curricula is in the process of being addressed, some school district officials are concerned that they need time to review curricula before implementation in schools.
I'm sure that school districts did complain about this. The words 'unfunded mandate' were mentioned in the hearing.  Schools do have a lot of things they are required to do.  But my wife, who taught English to non-native speakers in the Anchorage School District and thus saw what happened in a number of different schools, would regularly tell me about how much time teachers spent on things that were not mandated - like celebrating various holidays.  If teachers want to make time, they will. More on this below the next section.

Currently, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 20+ school districts out of 53 total Alaska school districts that are already doing some form of the training now voluntarily without being compelled by the state. School districts are asking for time to allow them to identify the resources to implement the training properly and effectively. This is part of the reason for the change.
The other stated issue some folks are having with the CS is that they believe there are too many sections to it, and that the number of sections may jeopardize the bill’s passage.
Hundreds of bills are introduced during legislative sessions, with a fraction of them ever getting passed by both the House and Senate and then being signed into law by the Governor. So there is always a chance a bill may not get the required votes for passage, including this CS. While I have had some legislators say they may not be able to support the CS as it is, others have stated to me that with the changes and additions to the CS they are now more likely to support the bill. It is always difficult to say what the final vote will be. However, I do have a sense that it has a very good chance of passing.

Dunleavy rightly points out that a number of school districts (he says 20+) already are doing some form of this training.  Then he cites some concerned about:

1.  Not having time to prepare.  This includes getting appropriate materials and training teachers.

I'd note that all teachers are already, by state law, mandatory reporters.  That means they are required to report suspicions of child abuse that they see.  So they should already have some fairly detailed training so they know how to do this.

Book shared at 5/20/15 Education Committee Hearing
I would also note that I could find no time-line in the bill.  Thus one assumes that like most legislation without a date, it goes into effect in 90 days.  If having time is the issue, then simply giving schools a year or two to get prepared would seem to solve this issue. Leave it mandatory, but give them a delay option. A school district could apply for a waiver and explain why they needed it.  But I don't think this should be an issue.  There are already schools doing this training and they have resource materials.  One person who testified shared books that are being used that even have
adaptations to Alaska Native cultures.  (And I note that there are many different Native cultures so one needs to consider whether these are appropriate for all the cultures.)  There was also testimony that the Rasmuson Foundation had pledged to help provide materials and training. 

2.  The legislative process and the slim chances for this bill.  The original HB 44 already passed the House.  Last year a clean version of this bill passed the Alaska Senate unanimously.  So even if a few people told you they had problems with it, the odds are high that you wouldn't lose half  those who voted for it last year.  If you had simply passed the bill that was sent to the committee the way it was, I think (and you know) it had every likelihood of passing.  But because of the significant changes there are now issues that will cause people who supported the bill to reconsider.  Do they support all the new things you've tacked on and is it worth passing them (things you couldn't get passed in the regular session) to get a watered down Erin's Law?  Furthermore, t's not likely the legislature would go back and add K-6 in a future session.  More likely they'll say, we've already taken care of this issue.
And, if it passes the Senate, because of the many changes, the House has to redebate it.  We're in special session now and the state is close to shutting down if the legislature can't agree on a budget.  Debating all the changes to Erin's Law is not something they have a lot of time for.  Perhaps you thought this would get your pet legislation passed.  But it might get everything sunk. 

So what’s in the sections of the CS? In the Comments below, I will post links for: (a) the actual text of the CS for HB 44, (b) the original version of HB 44, and (c) a sectional analysis of the new CS completed by Legislative Legal. While the Legislative Legal analysis lists 23 actual sections of the bill, these components of the bill are worth noting. . .
Section 16 deals with sexual abuse and sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts in public schools. This is what some refer to as “Erin’s Law.” The other component of this section relates to dating violence and abuse awareness and prevention efforts in public schools. Some refer to this as “Bree’s Law,” named after a young Alaskan woman named Bree Moore who was tragically murdered by her then boyfriend.
Sections 2, 5, 6, 7, and 17 relate to SB 89, known as the “Parental Rights Bill.” I introduced this bill earlier this year in an effort to reiterate in law the inherent rights of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. SB 89 has had several hearings this year in the Senate Education Committee and State Affairs Committee. It was passed out to the Senate Rules Committee where it awaits scheduling for a floor vote.
Sections 3, 4, 8, 9, 19, 11, 12, 13 14,15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 all relate to eliminating or modifying requirements of the state on school districts and educational personnel. The purpose of these sections is to identify items that can be modified or repealed to enable school districts to save resources, in order for them to potentially use those freed resources for academic and educational matters.
Section 23 saves the state money and removes a testing requirement. This section is basically HB 80, sponsored by Representative Lynn Gattis, which passed the House this year. It repeals the mandate from last year’s HB 278 that all secondary students take the SAT, ACT or Work Keys test before graduating from high school. HB 278, which required the state to pay for the test, failed to specify a score that students must receive to consider passing. HB 80 reverses the mandate and funding from the state. In doing so, the state will save $525,000 annually and will give back countless hours to school counselors and administrators who have been proctoring these tests.

Sen. Dunleavy is either being careless or trying to slip some things by us here.  Talking about parental rights could take up half a dozen long blog posts.  I'll just say I see there is a national movement on parental rights.  Their website and rhetoric remind me of other conservative 'think tanks' like ALEC and Americans for Prosperity.  They use a phrase everyone agrees with - parental rights, in this case - to attack government and schools.   Parental Rights in this bill includes the right to keep their kids from learning about sexuality, STDs, birth control, and definitely abortion.  And sexual abuse awareness.

It's interesting that while the language in Section 2 requires parents to object each time they want to withdraw their child from school activities to which the object, the language for Sexual Abuse Awareness (Erin's Law) requires them to actually give permission BEFORE the child can attend. 

I'd note that two of the sections listed - 5 and 17 - have nothing to do with parental rights, at least not as I understand that term.  Instead they are aimed at cutting all school contracts with agencies that provide abortions and agencies that don't provide abortions but have contracts with agencies that do.  Those were just slipped in there, it seems, on the assumption that most people won't check.  While Dunleavy has changed a lot of things to optional, the abortion providing agency blackballing has been made mandatory.  What happens if the abortion providing agency also has the best and cheapest training and materials on STD's or pregnancy prevention?  Schools will be forced to pay more and get lower quality materials.  That doesn't seem to be in the spirit of giving school districts more flexibility and local power.  It seems Sen Dunleavy is able to impose his religious beliefs on school districts which might limit the parental rights of parents who would welcome the expertise that, say, Planned Parenthood, has acquired over the years on these subjects. 

There are also sections I would support.  Section 2.4 allows parents to withdraw their kids from school to observe a religious holiday without penalties to the children and Section 2.5 allows parents to review the content of all classes, programs, performance standard, or activity.  These are good things.  Kids shouldn't be punished for observing the holy days of their religion and parents should have access to all the content used in schools.  But they have nothing to do with Erin's Law. 

In my opinion and that of others, the changes in CS HB44 make it a better bill because it addresses a number of outstanding issues that have already had the close attention of the House and/or Senate but which were not yet passed into law because we ran out of time in the regular session. By rolling the issues into a CS as is commonly done in the legislature, a number of “birds can be killed with one stone.”
 Except. . . . that Erin's Law was as close to a slam dunk pass as there could be, until you added  22 new sections on to it, some of which are truly questionable.  Yes, this sort of horse trading on legislation is done all the time, but this is a special session, with limited time, and the Governor's direction was to pass Erin's Law, not all these others.  And, as I've noted elsewhere, all this leveraging and taking advantage that you say is 'commonly done' may well be part of the reason that politicians' approval rating is so abysmally low. 

Now let me address some of the claims by using facts and data.
“You put this CS together to kill the original bill.” - Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything in the CS, I support and in talking with others, many others do as well.
 I suspect this is true.  Rather I see this as a way to piggy back on a bi-partisan bill to get legislation that you failed to get passed in the regular session.  But stuffing this with 22 new sections to the one section of Erin's Law is probably even greedy by normal standards.   And given the news that people are asking you to run against Sen. Murkowski, this would seem a perfect ploy for getting points with the far right of the Republican party in the primaries.  I'm not saying you don't also believe in this, or that the political benefit was part of your calculation, but appearances do matter in politics.  Though you may not have expected the amount of push back you've gotten.  
“By changing the ‘shall’ to a ‘may’ you have effectively nullified the intent of the bill.” - I don’t think so and it is certainly not my intent. If anything, I think we get more support for it by giving school districts more control and more time to identify ways they can implement the training. As stated earlier, many school districts are already doing the training. I am confident that within a short period of time, the remaining school districts will be implementing the training as well.
This really gets to the key point I made at the beginning of this post.  At the top of this post I went through the math, step by step, and it shows that at least 2000 kids will likely be abused without the protection of Erin's Law because of the changes Dunleavy made.

This is a BIG DEAL.  Your intent is not the issue.  They say the road to hell is paved, not by bricks, but by good intentions.  The outcomes are what matters.  Your actions are setting up lots of Alaska kids for abuse because they won't get training on how to recognize abusers and avoid them and report them.  For me, this is the bottom line.  The number of kids who will be harmed because of your meddling with what was a clean bill, certain to pass.  Nothing else matters.  The rest is just noise.

You give no evidence except your 'confidence' that the other schools will follow through.  And even if they did, you've made it significantly easier for abusers to keep their kids out of these classes. 

“Dunleavy, you don’t care about kids. You don’t want Erin’s Law to pass!” - Boy, where do I start? First of all, last year I voted FOR Erin’s law. Read this link:…/alaska-legislature-can-have-impact-abu… Remember, it was also introduced last year and passed the Senate 20 to 0. So I DO support the law. With regard to not caring about kids, seriously, my profession is public education. I care and that is why I support the bill.
I'm sure you care about kids.  I don't doubt that.  But I think you've been able to compartmentalize what you are doing here and you simply don't see the impacts this will have on real kids all across the state.  You can read my post on Hannah Arendt to understand how this might happen.

And since the bill passed the Senate last year unanimously, I'm convinced it would have passed this time if you had simply passed the original bill without trying to tack on a bunch of other things you wanted, no matter how important you think they are.  This is a test of a human being - whether you can help others without taking a cut for your help.  You failed that test.  I understand, because of your time in the legislature, that you consider this standard procedure.  I'm just telling you that it's not part of the ethics I practice.  I challenge you to find a quote from any ethical tradition that tells you to only help if you get something in return.  Show me where Christ tells us to be sure to take your cut when you help others.
“Then why change the ‘shall’ to ‘may’ if you supported it last year? Why the change?” - Good question. Last year we had oil prices well over $100 per barrel. We were not staring at a $4 billion dollar deficit. We were not having to cut school district funding; we were adding to it. The state and school districts were not under the pressure we are under now. Again, the “may” gives districts time to identify resources to implement the training.
A couple of things here.  First, for every kid who is sexually abused, there is more work for the teachers, the school districts, and in many cases police and mental health agencies, and on and on.  Not preventing child abuse is itself an unfunded mandate, because the damage of abuse costs the kids, their families, their schools, and their communities a lot.

Second, if your concern was timing, why not just allow districts to apply for deadline waivers if they can show there's a hardship?   But make them explain why they need the waiver, because people testified that the Rasmuson Foundation and others have offered to make materials and training available.  Make them specify their reason for a waiver and then let Rasmuson help them overcome the obstacles.  We'll see if these are the real issues or not. 

“There should be no amendments or new sections to this bill. Go back to the original bill.” - If we were to do that, then there would be no “Bree’s Law” component of the bill, no training for dating violence and abuse, because that component is itself an amendment. The “original” bill did not have the “Bree’s Law” component. It was an amendment just added this spring. That change, as well as the others in the CS, have all gone toward making it a better bill. Go to the following link and you can follow the bill as it was amended in the House.…
The House amended the bill. The Senate was in the process of amending the bill in the regular session by identifying mandates that could be removed from school districts to free up resources. This effort was led by Senator Gardner. Senator McGuire also offered an amendment to the bill – the “Bree’s Law” component a few weeks before the session ended. My point is that bills often go through many steps and amendments before they become law.
 Again with this red herring about amendments.  There are lots of reasons to amend bills.  One is to make them better when problems are raised or when new options (like the teen dating violence) present themselves.  Another is to try to piggyback your own pet legislation onto a bill that is likely to pass so yours goes along for the ride.  And sometimes they are added to delay or kill a bill.  Despite what you say about the 22 added sections making it a better bill (the teen dating violence change isn't even one of them), we'll just have to disagree.  I've stated already above my reasons for thinking the amendments weaken and water down the bill.   Yes, bills go through many stages because people have different goals and values.  You were in a position to let this go through and you hijacked it for your own benefit.  By that I mean that you got stuff tacked on that you wanted passed.  Stuff that doesn't in any way increase the likelihood that kids will be protected against sexual abuse. 

“Erin Merryn, the lady behind the Erin’s Law movement, states you have hijacked the law and have changed it from its original version.” – This is what she has said. But she also recognizes that there are different versions in different states. I will post in the Comments below a document prepared by the National Conference of State Legislatures which identifies greatly varying action taken in implementing Erin’s Law in various states. While some states do require schools to provide the education, others simply allow them to, and yet other states create task forces to study potential implementation of the training. I believe Alaska’s CS is a version that will help children.
What’s next? The CS is in Senate Finance waiting to be scheduled for a hearing. Hopefully this will occur soon. It’s time to help Alaska’s children.
I really don't care what other states do.  Alaska has the worst statistics of any state when it comes to sexual abuse, violence against women, and related crimes.  Your responsibility as an Alaskan legislator is to those kids in our state who need the information that the original Erin's Law would provide them.  You sound like a teenager telling his parents, "But Mom, all the other kids do it."  You aren't a teenager, you're a legislator with the power to help helpless kids.  You are responsible for every kid that doesn't get sexual abuse awareness education and then gets molested because of what you've done to Erin's Law.  And the numbers, as I've pointed out above, will be significant. That's not opinion, that's not arguable.  It's based on actual numbers and the stats on rates of abuse.  You took a strong bill and watered it down.  There will be kids who don't get the information and help they need because of those changes.  And you're the person who has made the changes and defends the changes.  

If I'm wrong here, show me.  My numbers are conservative.  It's your job, if you want to refute this, to show how passing on as it was the original HB 44 your committee got, would have caused greater harm because it didn't have your amendments.  I don't think you can. 

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