Media For Immediate Release
Contact Chris Kimes at 304.561.7728 for more information
“A Good Day for Kids”: Senate Passes Erin Merryn’s Law, Truancy Reform
Our Children, Our Future Campaign thanks Legislature for Bi-Partisan Action
****UPDATE (4:24 PM): House Finance Committee advances budget bill that includes restoration of ALL Kids and Families Cuts (Family Resource Networks, Child Advocacy Centers, Children’s Trust Fund, Domestic Violence, Family Resource Center line items).
Charleston, WV: Kids get hurt. They get in trouble. The State of West Virginia voted to make life a little bit easier for troubled kids today, passing two major pieces of legislation with bi-partisan support.
The first bill, HB2550, is a truancy reform measure that would help reduce the massive influx of kids entering the criminal justice system – instead getting them help sooner from their school principals and counselors. This bill passed 31-2, with one abstention in the Senate. (For more information about HB2550’s specifics, please contact Jen Meinig of the ACLU at 304.389.6775 or see attachment.)
The second bill, HB2527 – commonly referred to as “Erin Merryn’s Law” – would establish a statewide task force to improve child abuse prevention practices in schools and communities. West Virginia becomes the 21st state to take this important measure. This measure was passed unanimously, 34-0. (For more information about HB2527’s specifics, please contact Emily Chittenden-Laird of the WV Child Advocacy Network at 304.647.0117 or see below).
Both pieces of legislation were officially endorsed by Our Children, Our Future – the campaign to end child poverty. Our Children, Our Future is a statewide coalition of over 177 partners that unites around issues affecting vulnerable children and families. Now in its third year, the Campaign has already helped to lead the charge on 12 statewide policy victories – from raising the minimum wage to expanding school breakfast and lunch programs to restoring children’s funding.
Statement from Our Children, Our Future steering committee member Stephen Smith: “Today is a rare good day for some of our most vulnerable kids. These are kids like me. Like far too many kids in our state, I am both a survivor of sexual assault and someone who missed too much school. Right now in West Virginia, too many abuse cases go unreported, and too many truancy cases end up getting locked up instead of helped out. Today, Senate Republicans and Democrats united today to help address our twin crises of child abuse and child incarceration. We cannot thank the lead sponsors of these bills enough. Delegate Pasdon, Delegate Cowles, and Sen. Walters deserve a lot of credit for working with their constituents and reaching across the aisle to find compromises and keep these bills moving.”
For more information, contact Chris Kimes, OCOF Political Director at 304.561.7728.
More information about Erin Merryn’s Law (see attachment for more info about the truancy bill):
National statistics state that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by their 18th birthday. 85% of these children delay disclosing that the abuse is happening for at least a year, with some never telling. Last year Child Advocacy Centers served 2863 West Virginia children, 75% of whom were alleged victims of child sexual abuse. Both from a statistical and anecdotal perspective, it is clear that child sexual abuse is under reported by both children and the adults who they tell.
20 states have passed Erin Merryn’s Law, and an additional 21 states have introduced the bill this year. The bill now moves to the State Senate, where it will be referenced to the Judiciary Committee. Leading groups that have been working on this bill include the WV Child Advocacy Network, Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, and the WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.
Erin Merryn’s Law is named after Erin Merryn, a survivor of child sexual abuse and nationally recognized child advocate. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, Erin has made it her mission to pass legislation in all 50 states which require states to enact child sexual abuse prevention efforts including providing age appropriate sex abuse prevention education in all grades.
The Our Children, Our Future campaign is made up of over 177 organizations and individuals committed to empowering West Virginia’s families and ending child poverty.