- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The House Education Committee on Friday advanced the so-called “Erin’s Law,” which is an effort to prevent childhood sexual abuse.

Namesake Erin Merryn spoke about House Bill 233 to committee members, relating her own personal experiences as a child sexual abuse victim. She also discussed statistics regarding childhood sexual abuse in Alaska.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, said it mandates that school districts develop age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education for grades kindergarten through 12.

Last year, Office of Children’s Services statistics show 2,296 allegations of child sexual abuse in Alaska, of which 1,118 were individual victims. The majority of those were Alaska Native children.

There are a number of different curriculums online available for local school districts to use with different age groups, Tarr said.

“Alaska is first in so many things that aren’t good,” said Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, a former school nurse.

Former assistant district attorney Rachel Gernat of Palmer said one problem has been allowing individuals accused of childhood sexual crimes to stay in the community where their alleged victims live after being released on bond.

Alaska changed the length of prison terms for childhood sexual abuse in 2006 from a maximum of eight years in prison to 35 years.

Merryn said she flew to Alaska from Chicago to assist in getting the bill passed as the legislative session winds down. Legislative leaders want to adjourn by April 18.

Twelve states have passed some version of “Erin’s Law.”

The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee.

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Online:

HB 233: https://bit.ly/OSyi7h

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