By Tommy Reynolds
We were very pleased to have Erin Merryn of Illinois in the Capitol last week. Ms. Merryn is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has made it her mission to make sure other children have the information and tools necessary to keep themselves safe from predators. She was in Jackson to help bring attention to House Bill 200, Erin’s Law, which I co-sponsored.
Statistics show that one in four females and one in six males is sexually abused as a child. We who believe that one of our most important missions is to protect our children supported this bill.
Erin’s Law requires a curriculum for children ages kindergarten through fifth grade that will teach them how to identify if someone is touching them in the wrong places. The lessons will also teach children how to get away and how to tell a trusted grownup about the abuse. Ms. Merryn said that she had been well trained as a child on how to stop, drop and roll out of a fire, how to escape a bus crash, how to cover and run from tornadoes. But, no one had ever taught her what to do if someone was sexually abusing her.
She emphasized that children need to be told by a trusted adult that 1) the child is not to blame for the abuse and 2) that the abused child needs to keep telling until help comes. Ms. Merryn related that she believed her abusers when they told her that she wasn’t supposed to tell.
Erin’s Law provides that lessons will be taught once each nine weeks from an age-appropriate, evidence-based curriculum provided by the Children’s Justice Center — at no cost to the school districts. The information will be available on the Center’s web site for free download.
Importantly, parents will be allowed to opt out from the lessons if they prefer to teach these safety lessons to their children at home. I believe, as do most of my colleagues, that parents should have this option for lessons of this nature.
Thus far, five other states have passed Erin’s Laws. If this effort is successful here, Mississippi will be the first state in the South to pass it.
The companion Senate bill, SB 2133, may be the version that eventually makes it into law. Either way, our children would be well served to have this type of protective instruction required in our schools.
Tuesday, February 5, was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee from the originating chamber. We will have some time to pass those bills out of the House and send them to the Senate for action. Simultaneously, the Senate will be passing their bills and sending them to us.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to send the Senate amended version of HB 19 directly to the Governor for his signature. This Bill was one of the first bills passed by the House earlier this year and by the House agreeing to the Senate’s amendment this is one of the first bills to reach the Governor’s desk. I am a supporter of this Bill which will provide monies to counties to replace or repair rural bridges that have below a fifty percent sufficiency rating. If this Bill is signed by the Governor these funds will be available to the counties that need to repair or replace unsafe bridges.
Please contact me on these or any other issues at 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965 or by email at email@example.com.. I can also be reached by telephone at (662) 473-2571. I look forward to hearing from you.