Mr. REICHERT. Mr. Chairman, after listening to the discussion back and forth here for the last hour or two, I would hope that my amendment would not be quite so contentious. And it is my great hope that we can come together in agreement on the amendment that I'm about to offer.
I am suggesting that we take $2.5 million from the Department of Commerce salaries and expenses account, which is totaling now $60 million and is receiving a $7 million increase. So to remove $2.5 million from a $7 million increase from a $60 million budget, to Support Teens through Education and Protection program, STEP, which helps high schools collaborate with domestic violence and sexual assault service providers, law enforcement, the courts and other organizations to improve school safety.
This vital program was authorized by Congress under the VAWA Act, Violence Against Women Act, but was never funded.
Our schools should be safe havens for our children to learn and grow. Unfortunately, violence in schools has left many kids afraid of the very places we send them to learn and grow. They increasingly find themselves becoming victims of dating violence, bullying, harassment, gang-related violence in the classrooms, in the hallways and in the restrooms. On the buses, in school yards, anywhere in the area of the school, this law would apply. When violence occurs in our schools, our children find
themselves in difficult situations. They go to school, where they spend 6 to 8 hours a day with the very people that have perpetrated the crime against them, placing them in very dangerous situations.
For example, a 16-year-old girl breaks up with her 16-year-old boyfriend in Texas at a high school, and during the day she goes to her teacher and she says, I'm afraid. This boyfriend of mine is becoming more and more violent and I'm afraid for my safety. Can you help me? Two hours later, this young lady is found dead in the hallways of her own school.
In 2007, at a high school in Seattle, a young girl was assaulted, was dragged into the boys' restroom and was assaulted even further. The girl pushed herself away from the suspect and ran away and told the teachers. She reported the incident to the teachers. She told the principal of the school. The school did nothing. For 3 weeks, this young lady had to go back to school and had to face these three individuals, these three individuals who assaulted her. They did nothing. They didn't report it
to the police. They didn't tell anybody.
Our schools need more effective procedures to address these problems when they occur amongst students. Teachers, coaches and counselors have important roles to play in the lives of our children, as we all know, and they can be key to curbing violence among our youth. Studies show that 25 percent of the teens say they would confide in teachers or in school counselors if they became involved in abusive relationships or were assaulted. Unfortunately, school personnel are not currently trained or
equipped with the knowledge or with the resources needed to address these issues effectively in school.
By supporting my amendment, we can help schools address bullying, harassment and sexual violence involving teen victims. The STEP program can train school personnel; it can provide support services for students who are experiencing abuse; it can help schools foster appropriate and safe responses to the affected students.
The National Education Association, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Break the Cycle, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and the Family Violence Prevention Fund have endorsed this amendment. I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment to help create a safe learning environment for our children across this country.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I am thrilled to support an amendment from the minority, and I want to compliment the gentleman from Washington for his concern.
He is absolutely correct. This program is authorized under the Violence Against Women legislation. It was not funded in this bill. There are a number of programs in VAWA and we found it difficult to fund all of them. Every year, we want to add to them. The gentleman's contribution to the bill and to fighting violence against women is real, and we appreciate it. We accept the amendment.
Domestic and dating violence is very serious and can be dealt with through the program that the gentleman is advocating, so we thank him for his contribution, and we look forward to working with him as we move this legislation through conference to ensure that his efforts here are retained.
I reserve the balance of my time.