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Published: Thursday, 5/1/2008

Ohio House endorses bill to expand teens' protection from dating violence


COLUMBUS - The Ohio House yesterday overwhelmingly approved a bill inspired by a Toledo murder case that would broaden the powers of juvenile court judges to deal with teen-dating violence.

Shynerra Grant, 17, was shot to death in her home a few days after her 2005 graduation from Start High School by a former boyfriend, Antonio Bryant, who had a history of harassing and physically assaulting her. Bryant then went home and killed himself.

"When I learned that several other young women in Ohio had suffered a fate similar to Shynerra's at the hands of former juvenile dating partners, I felt it was imperative to try to stop obsessive perpetrators from committing these acts of what is commonly known as teen dating violence," said Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), the bill's sponsor.

House Bill 247 goes to the Senate for consideration.

State law currently does not provide for the issuance of protection orders for teens within the context of "dating relationships."

Ms. Brown's bill would require that any petition for a protection order involving an alleged offender under the age of 18 be filed in juvenile court, which could enforce such orders for up to five years or until the offender turns 21.

It expands the list of allegations that could allow an alleged victim to seek protection to include felonious assault, aggravated assault, menacing, aggravated menacing, menacing by stalking, or a sexually oriented offense or its equivalent within a dating relationship.

The bill also expands the definition of a family or household members allowed to request protection orders on behalf of a teen to include a foster parent.

Ms. Brown noted that the power of juvenile court judges in such cases today is largely limited to the issuance of no-contact orders.

"No-contact orders are hard to enforce, because they do not stop an offender from continuing to harass, stalk, or intimidate a victim by showing up at school basketball games where the victim is cheerleading, as happened to Shynerra Grant," she said.

"They incessantly call on cell phones and eventually inflict serious injuries," Ms. Brown said.

If the Senate agrees, Ohio would become the 31st state to enact such a law.

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