PANEL APPROVES TEEN DATING VIOLENCE EDUCATION PLAN
(AUSTIN) — Students would learn to recognize the signs of abuse and who to report it to as part of their usual health curriculum under a bill approved unanimously by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in eleven young women and one in fifteen young men have experienced dating violence in the past year, and one in eight young women report sexual violence. "Young love is supposed to be beautiful," said Dallas Senator Royce West. "Young love isn't supposed to hurt and no it isn't supposed to kill, but unfortunately it does." His bill, SB 1109, would direct the state board of education to develop curriculum to educate Texas public school students on what to do if they or someone they know is a victim of domestic or dating violence.
The bill is named for Christine Blubaugh, a 16-year-old Grand Prairie high school student who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2000. Her mother, Debra Blubaugh, told members that she had no idea that her daughter was in an abusive relationship. "As a parent, you think recognizing the signs of abuse would be easy, especially in your own daughter," she said. Christine's friends, too, didn't see the warning signs, said Blubaugh. "She didn't share much about this part of her life, maybe with a few of her closest friends. But these children were young too, they had never really been around it, they didn't know what to do, they didn't know what the signs were. I believe had she had this information in high school, it could've started this conversation," she said. Even Christine's twin sister Dawn didn't realize the extent of the abuse. "There were so many warning signs that we didn't know were warning signs at the time," Dawn, now 38 years old, told members.
The bill would require that students receive age-appropriate instruction on the prevention of child abuse, family violence and dating violence as part of their essential knowledge and skills for health curriculum. They would receive this instruction once in middle school and twice in high school. Part of that curriculum would have to include information on the prevalence of dating violence, possible warning signs and who they should report that to. It would also require schools to develop an anti-dating violence policy, affirming that dating violence is not tolerated and establishing reporting procedures for victims of dating violence.
Grand Prairie Police Chief Daniel Scesney testified that 21 years later, child abuse and dating violence are still huge problems facing Texas youth. "Christine is representative of too many kids in our state - kids who have lost their lives to domestic violence or growing up in homes where abuse is what normal looks like for them," he said. "All children need to understand and be taught that abusive relationships are not normal, and that help is available."
Education Committee Chair Senator Larry Taylor of Friendswood moved the bill immediately following testimony. It received a unanimous vote of 10-0 and will now head to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, April 28 at 11 a.m.