I hope everyone is staying warm throughout this cold spell. I mentioned this in last week’s update, but it bears repeating: help is available if you or someone you know is struggling with heating bills. No one deserves to be left out in the cold, and Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Plan can help with utility bills, furnace repair or replacement, and fuel deliveries.
Members of the Minnesota National Guard who experience trauma at the hands of other Guard members deserve access to justice. This week, the Star Tribune highlighted the ordeals many National Guard survivors have experienced when reporting sexual assault. The story also talked about my legislation – Sheyla’s Law, named after one such survivor – to help solve this problem by transferring investigatory authority to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. On Tuesday, the legislation will receive a public hearing in the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee.
On Thursday, the committee will hold a hearing on another piece of important legislation I’ve chief authored to strengthen the state’s criminal sexual conduct laws.
Many people in our community are experiencing mental health struggles right now. The COVID-19 crisis is affecting people in different ways, and you can't always tell someone is having a tough time. This week, Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health announced the establishment of four new call centers in Minnesota as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s network. Having these new call centers available locally will help ensure someone experiencing a crisis, or who knows a friend or family member who is, can more quickly have access to support.
Help is available. Free, confidential support is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or texting MN to 741741.
We must also address the mental health needs of our students. While COVID-19 has put a brighter spotlight on these challenges, the difficulties came long before the pandemic. I’m introducing a bill to help students, teachers, and schools get access to the resources they need.
During the month of February, we recognize Black History Month to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions and accomplishments of Black Americans. Despite the progress we’ve made, the struggle for civil rights continues, and given the events of the past year, our work not just during the month of February, but all year long must remain at the forefront to deliver true racial justice.
In a previous update, I mentioned our work in the House Education Policy Committee to tackle our state’s unacceptable racial disparities in the classroom, including a worst-in-the-nation opportunity gap for students of color. One such bill, of which I am a co-author, is the Increase Teachers of Color Act aimed at recruiting and retaining more teachers of color and Indigenous teachers to Minnesota classrooms. Multiple studies have shown that students from communities of color have higher achievement when they have access to teachers who look like they do. Through goals, mentorship, hiring bonuses and other strategies, the bill aims to ensure the diversity of Minnesota’s teachers better reflect the diversity of our students.
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