Requiring each Arizona school board to hold a public meeting to consider whether or not to adopt a curriculum on dating violence would better inform board members about the problem among teens, a state lawmaker says.
“It will bring to the attention of school board members what’s going on in the lives of teenagers who are dating and the destructive behaviors involved,” said Sen. Linda Gray, a Republican from Glendale. “School boards are in the business of education, and it’s important students understand what those behaviors and warning signs are.”
Gray’s bill, S1308, won House approval Tuesday, sending it back to the Senate, which can either accept House changes or send the bill to a conference committee to resolve differences.
The measure would require all school boards to hold a meeting on or before June 30, 2011, to discuss whether or not they want to adopt curriculum regarding dating abuse. It would also require the boards to notify a local domestic violence organization of their meeting at least two weeks in advance.
The bill originally mandated much more, including requiring that all administrators and teachers receive training on the warning signs of dating violence, but was scaled back through amendments due to concerns raised by a group representing school administrators.
Kendra Leiby, a lobbyist for the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that her organization was hoping for more mandates. But she said she was happy the Legislature is making progress toward educating the public about the problem.
“It’s not nearly as strong of a bill as we hoped in requiring courses and education to prevent violence,” Leiby said. “But the school districts having the conversation is a tremendous step forward for Arizona.”
Mike Smith, a lobbyist for the Arizona School Administrators Association, said his group opposes requiring the meeting because most districts lack the resources to implement such a curriculum.
“They make these little hurdles of what they want, but they recognize that ordering them would be an unfunded mandate,” Smith said. “So instead of ordering us, they order us to hold a meeting. I’m guessing 90 percent of the districts will hold a meeting and vote no because they don’t have the resources.”
Gray said she sponsored the bill after hearing that the teenage daughter of a family in her district was murdered after breaking up with her boyfriend. She said she hopes these kinds of talks among school board members will keep similar situations from spiraling into tragedy.
“We’re trying to change behaviors through education,” she said. “If a girl is saying no, it needs to stop. No means no.”