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Neville’s bill would endanger kids

Editor:

According to an article in the Canyon Courier on Feb. 11, Tim Neville, the newly elected District 16 senator, is sponsoring a bill, SB 77, that would “require permission from a parent for a child to receive medical or mental health care, except in cases of emergencies and life-threatening situations.” While I agree with Neville’s belief that “most parents are caring and loving and have the best interest of their children at heart,” it seems worthwhile to examine the behavior of those parents not included in “most.”

The Jefferson County school district website states that there are 86,574 children enrolled in our county’s public schools this year. This figure includes charter schools, online schools and laboratory schools. It is difficult to discern how many of these kids might be abused or neglected, since many cases go unreported. However, the data center of Kids Count, a reputable national foundation, finds that for Colorado in 2013, the rate of abuse is 8.1 children abused per population of 1,000 kids. The foundation’s definition of abuse is “incidence of maltreatment of children under 18 years old, which includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and/or neglect.” Conceivably, most of these incidences do not rise to the level of emergencies or, worse yet, life-threatening situations, as Neville requires. Nevertheless, do the math, and the result for Jeffco schools is more than 700 public school students suffering from definable abuse and neglect. Back to the belief that most parents are caring … a common statistic is that about 80 percent of that abuse is from parents or guardians (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Thus, at the least, 560 of our Jeffco schoolchildren are not being raised by “caring and loving” parents. Personally, I suspect that these figures are low, but let’s give abusive parents the benefit of the doubt, and say that these figures are correct. Then I must ask Mr. Neville the following questions: How many abused and neglected children are too many? Is 560 enough for you to cease pushing this harmful bill? How would you get abusive parents to give permission for their child to receive medical or mental health care? Must children be close to being killed by an abusive parent in order for their condition to be addressed by outsider observers? How would you address the numerous laws and standards that currently support the reporting of suspected abuse by teachers and other professionals?

I appreciate thoughtful questions and concerns about the role of government in private life; however, who can better protect those who cannot protect themselves (like children)? Like Mr. Neville, I don’t have “a dog in the fight.” But I do enjoy living in a society that protects and enhances the well-being of all of its citizens, especially those who are defenseless. Mr. Neville, I look forward to your response to these questions.

Kit Darrow, Evergreen