RENO, Nev. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Giunchigliani has defended her actions 13 years ago as a state legislator to weaken a proposed law that would have required teachers who had sex with underage students to register as sex offenders.
Giunchigliani said she had to amend the bill to get it passed, but child safety advocates say they haven’t forgotten, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Wednesday.
Giunchigliani is a former teacher and union boss. In 2005, she waited until the second-to-last day of the legislative session to submit an amendment that scuttled a proposed expansion of sex offender reporting laws.
Giunchigliani said she was always supported tough penalties and increased protections for victims of childhood sexual abuse, and was just trying to get the bill passed.
“I haven’t spoken publicly on this, but this issue is deeply personal for me. When I was 8 years old, I was sexually abused by an extended family member. It’s something I’ve had to live with every day,” Giunchigliani wrote in a statement. “My sister was kidnapped, held in a trailer and raped for three days. The perpetrator went to jail where he belonged. Standing up for victims and their families is something I have always done and always will.”
But advocates question the ramifications of the amendment.
“The big question is how many of these teachers were convicted and they’re not registered offenders?” said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation Inc.
In amending the bill, Giunchigliani expressed concerns about “the life imprisonment issue” she said was raised by the proposed expansion of sex-offender reporting, minutes from the 2005 session reviewed by the Reno Gazette Journal showed.
The proposal makes no mention of life imprisonment, though it would have subjected teachers to the same lifetime supervision requirements imposed on other sex offenders.
Sheila Leslie, a longtime Democratic assemblywoman, confirmed on Tuesday she was one of the lawmakers worried about the legislation. Leslie, now Washoe County’s regional behavioral health program coordinator, said she opposed the measure because she feared parole and probation officers did not have the manpower to handle an increased sex offender supervision caseload.
Leslie said other lawmakers had balked at different parts of the bill. Without Giunchigliani’s amendment, the bill might not have survived, she said.
“If Chris hadn’t come up with a way forward, that bill would’ve died, because I wasn’t going to let it go forward,” Leslie said. “Chris would be the first one to want a teacher held accountable for this type of (sexual offense).”
Lawmakers in 2015 passed a different bill, which officially added sex with an underage student to the list of offenses that have to be disclosed on a state-run registry.
Some sex offenses committed by mental health and prison workers still fall outside state reporting requirements.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com
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