The local chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays were joined by the Progressive Network in criticizing last week’s House vote for a measure that would require school districts to distribute information about teen dating violence to students and parents.
Bill sponsors say it’s important for teachers and parents to recognize the warning signs if a teen is in an abusive relationship. The program is focused on students from sixth grade through high school.
But the measure was amended by Chester County Representative Greg Delleney, which limited its focus to different-gender relationships. Delleney said he believes that, without the amendment, the legislation would lead to school officials teaching children about same-sex relationships.
Harriet Hancock, representing Parents,Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said she couldn’t believe that Delleney amended the bill as he did. She said she was appalled. “But what was so much more appalling to me was that the amendment was accepted with little opposition. When the General Assembly found that all students have the right to work in a safe, supportive environment that is free from harassment, intimidation and violence, they didn’t say ‘except for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender students.’ But some members of the House put their own bias and homophobia ahead of the safety of our children.”
According to a 2007 National Institute of Justice youth risk behavior survey, in South Carolina eight percent of adolescents surveyed reported being physically violent to a romantic partner. In a national study of adolescents with same-sex partners, 44 percent of males and 40 percent of females reported experiencing some type of abuse, either physical, sexual or emotional.
Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg County says that she has been a social worker for more than 30 years, and has spent her career learning about relationships and violence. ” What happened in the South Carolina House last week reiterates the myths, misconceptions and misinformation people have about sexual assault, about rape. It has absolutely nothing to do with sex, race, gender or sexual orientation.”
Bill sponsor Richland County Representative Joan Brady says the bill was geared toward different-gender couples but that she didn’t intend to exclude anyone.
Brady said last week that with only a few days left in the session she’s not optimistic that it will pass but she has hopes for next session.