Anchorage Daily News: Parents behind ‘Bree’s Law’ blocked by Dunleavy administration from adapting Alaska’s teen dating violence classes for nationwide use

JUNEAU — An effort by the parents behind “Bree’s Law” to adapt the state of Alaska’s teen dating violence curriculum for nationwide use has hit a roadblock after the Dunleavy administration this month declined to grant a copyright release.

 Butch and Cindy Moore are the parents of Breanna “Bree” Moore, their youngest daughter, who was murdered in 2014 by her boyfriend. The Moore family was unaware that their daughter was in a violent relationship before she was killed.

 In 2018, after a yearslong lobbying effort, the Legislature approved funding to develop an Alaska curriculum, which the Moore family helped write with the state Department of Education and Early Development. The curriculum was finished and available for use in fall 2021, the Moores said.

 Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski took up the cause to have teen dating violence prevention taught nationally. Last year, Congress reapproved the Violence Against Women Act with Bree’s Law provisions. The legislation called for $40 million to be appropriated over five years for organizations to develop demonstration projects to combat teen dating violence. Another $950,000 was separately earmarked for the nonprofit established by the Moore family to help develop a national Bree’s Law curriculum.

 Then the Moores hit a bureaucratic obstacle. The husband-wife duo had sought to get a copyright release from the state to make minor revisions to the course materials. The Dunleavy administration informed the family in an April 5 letter that they could use the curriculum as long as it was not for profit, but they could not adapt or revise it.

 Cindy Moore said by phone April 7 that the changes they wanted to make were about removing Alaska-specific references, such as mentioning Bethel as a local community and images of students wearing UAA sweatshirts.

 “We want to make it generic for use in all 50 states, to any school district or school that wanted to utilize the education,” Butch Moore said.

 The Moore family was confused by the Dunleavy administration’s decision. They said they had worked for the past two months with the state education department and Deena Bishop, a former Anchorage superintendent and current special adviser to Dunleavy, to discuss adapting the Bree’s Law curriculum for use nationally. The administration had been “100% supportive” of those efforts, the Moores said.

 The governor’s office said in a prepared statement that the state rejected the copyright release request because the state Bree’s Law curriculum is “still in the process of being vetted for efficacy and therefore is not ready for dissemination to other states.” The state of Alaska, which owns the copyright to the curriculum, has the sole power to grant such a release.

 “Vetting a course requires coordinating a study with a university or researcher to determine if the course is actually effective at changing behavior, including years of data and research. In the future, if the curriculum is found to be effective, DEED (Department of Education and Early Development) can re-evaluate whether to give permission to more widely disseminate the curriculum and allow for adaptation,” the governor’s office said in the statement.

 Alaska’s Bree’s Law curriculum, which includes sexual abuse prevention classes following “Erin’s Law,” is currently being used in some of the state’s largest school districts, including in Anchorage. The Moore family hopes rural school districts will soon follow suit.

 The curriculum started to be developed in 2018, three years after the Legislature passed a bill that required teen dating violence prevention to be taught statewide. In 2015, then-state Sen. Dunleavy tried to insert provisions into that bill to prevent abortion providers from teaching sexual assault classes, and to offer “opt-out” options for classes about sex and human reproduction.

 Dunleavy’s provisions were stripped out during a special session, and he voted in support of the pared-down version. Several of his provisions passed in a separate bill that year, which established the state’s parental rights in education statute. The governor now wants the current Legislature to pass his new “parental rights” in schools bill, which would — among other things — prohibit sexual education before fourth grade; require parents to opt in before their children can be taught sex ed; and restrict LGBTQ+ policies in Alaska schools.

 The Moore family recently testified against that measure with concerns that it would limit the required curriculum on teen dating violence.

 “I can’t imagine why anybody would not want their children to learn about healthy relationships,” Cindy Moore said in late March. “And I feel like I would be a hypocrite to only be concerned about Bree and Erin’s Law. I believe in parental rights, but I also believe in the rights of our youth. And I feel like we can’t give parents 100% of the rights and give our youth 0%.”

 The state Bree’s Law curriculum contains five modules that teach middle and high school students what a healthy relationship looks like and the warning signs that a relationship could be toxic and dangerous.

 Benny Benson Alternative High School in Anchorage has been teaching teen dating prevention classes since 2021. Rosie Smith, a counselor at the school, said that they have been effective in getting students to open up about their experiences.

 “It really does create a safe space and environment for the kids to voice their concerns,” she said.

 Butch Moore agreed that the state curriculum had not been tested for its efficacy, but he said that the funding from Congress would help the course materials be evaluated and potentially modified. He said the goal one day is to offer that curriculum free of charge nationwide.

 “There is a massive need for teen dating violence prevention across the United States and we will continue to focus on saving lives and reducing the number of young women who are abused and killed,” the family said in a prepared statement.

 Part of the state’s curriculum involves discussing the help and support that’s available for someone in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship.

 Smith, at Benny Benson Alternative High School, said it’s been “pretty amazing to see” to see how students have responded to the classes, which she teaches in February — Teen Dating Violence and Prevention Month in Alaska. Dunleavy issued a proclamation at the start of the month, encouraging Alaskans to take “a proactive role in ending dating violence.”

 “The prevalence of sexual and intimate partner violence is a major public health concern in Alaska, therefore it is vital that as a state, we are providing young Alaskans the tools and education necessary to acknowledge, prevent, and avoid abuse in relationships,” the proclamation read.

 In 2019, a state Health Department survey found that 10% of Alaska high school students who were dating had experienced physical violence in those relationships. Around 7% of that same group had experienced sexual violence in relationships.

By:  Sean Maguire
Source: https://www.adn.com/politics/2023/04/16/parents-behind-brees-law-blocked-by-dunleavy-administration-from-adapting-alaskas-teen-dating-violence-classes-for-nationwide-use/