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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

Protection for teens who date

If proposed legislation in Columbus will help stem violence between dating teenagers, given the increase in crimes against teens in relationships, it's worth a try.

A bill introduced in the General Assembly, named for a Toledo teenager killed by a former boyfriend, would put Ohio on equal footing with other states with similar measures. House Bill 436 would be known as "Shynerra's Law." Sponsored by state Rep. Edna Brown, a Toledo Democrat, the bill has bipartisan support.

In June, Shynerra Grant, 17, was murdered by a former boyfriend as she sought protection from him. Antonio Rogers, who then committed suicide, had been convicted of assaulting the girl at her home more than a year before, and he was ordered to have no contact with her.

Shynerra's mother, Cheryl Boyd, is the driving force behind expanding the state domestic violence law to protect teenagers. Ms. Boyd was instrumental in the development of a mentoring program for teenagers and for abusers called Shay 4 Life. Ms. Boyd also wants junior high and high schools to address domestic violence.

HB 436 proposes three changes to Ohio's domestic violence law.

First, juveniles would become victims under the domestic violence law when an offender has or had a dating relationship with a juvenile perpetrator.

Second, juvenile suspects 14 and older who are charged in a domestic violence death or with committing domestic violence crimes would be tried as adults.

Third, a victim's parents or other adults in the home could file a motion seeking a temporary protection order on behalf of alleged juvenile victims.

The proposal is an important expansion of the domestic violence law. As it is now, only blood or common-law relatives are protected by the law, and only juveniles 16 or older charged with murder are automatically certified to face trial as adults.

Furthermore, Juvenile Court can only issue "no contact" orders, which don't have the same strength as protection orders. Anyone who violates a protection order faces arrest, and that would be extended to protect juvenile domestic violence victims.

Domestic violence is a serious problem, and dating teenagers can become victims, too. Ms. Brown's bill would heighten awareness and provide some protection. Why would any legislator be opposed?

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