Republican lawmaker: Schools shouldn’t help students avoid ‘dating abuse’

By: - November 20, 2019 3:40 pm

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction. Screenshot via YouTube

The No. 2 Republican on the Education Committee in the Arizona House of Representatives wants to bar Arizona schools from teaching students how to avoid abusive romantic relationships.

Rep. John Fillmore, a Republican from Apache Junction, is sponsoring House Bill 2005. The proposal would remove the word “dating” from existing state statute that gives school districts the authority to create curriculum and policies around “dating abuse.” 

The bill also would ban all “instruction or advice” related to dating in schools.

Fillmore is the vice-chairman of the House Education Committee.

Many schools in Arizona already have policies in place to address dating violence. For instance, the Tucson Unified School District has policies for how its schools are supposed to react to incidents of dating violence. 

“I didn’t think that is an area that schools should be dealing in,” Fillmore told Arizona Mirror

Instead, he said that school curriculum should be limited to “reading, writing and arithmetic.” 

Fillmore is also sponsoring legislation that requires all students be taught a course on “personal finances.” Such courses are currently optional.

School districts across the state use the statute Fillmore wants to change to give their schools the authority to give students who have experienced dating violence and abuse information about how to deal with the abuse or find appropriate resources. 

When asked about how his bill could affect how domestic violence is taught in schools, Fillmore said it was something he hadn’t thought about, and that he had not engaged with domestic violence groups when drafting the legislation. 

“What I’m doing is saying, ‘Let’s have a conversation,’” Fillmore said. 

When asked what conversation he wants to prompt, he only said it is a conversation about “education.” 

“The bill may never pass,” Fillmore said, “but let’s have a conversation.” 

HB2005 is one of many education bills Fillmore has proposed so far for the upcoming legislative session, which will begin in January. 

Nationwide, 12 percent of girls in grades 9 through 12 have been physically forced into sex, and about one in three young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 in the United states have been the victims of dating violence, according to the U.S. Department of Education

Additionally, 20 percent of students with failing grades were found to have been victims of dating violence in the last year, while only 6 percent of students with mostly A’s had been victims of dating violence. 

The Department of Education’s research has also found that students who are victims of dating violence are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as using drugs, unhealthy eating habits or risky sexual behavior. 

A 2009 study found that one-fourth of sixth-grade students thought it was acceptable for boys to hit their girlfriends, and more than one-fourth of the boys surveyed said they had been physically aggressive towards their girlfriends. 

Research also has found that nearly half of all physical dating violence occurs on school grounds and that many schools do not have written policies on dating violence, making Arizona ahead of some states. Arizona is one of only 23 states have laws on the books that address the issue. 

Curriculum, like the Centers for Disease Control’s Dating Matters program, could be prohibited under Fillmore’s bill. 

CDC data shows that 1 in 9 female high school students has experienced sexual dating violence and 1 in 11 has experienced physical dating violence. 

Boys are also susceptible, with 1 in 15 being subjected to physical dating violence and 1 in 36 being victims of sexual dating violence, according to the CDC. 

If you are a teen or a loved one of a teen that is in a physically, emotionally or sexually abusive relationship please call 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453 for help.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.