Editorials, Opinion

The Good, the Bad and the Stupid 7

Good: SB 740 and SB 471 — both of which deal with digital technology and child pornography.

SB 740 would make it illegal to use digital manipulation to alter any sexually explicit media (image, video, etc.) to include the image of an actual minor to make it look like the minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct. This includes any image of a minor, even if that person is no longer a child or is deceased but was a minor when the picture was taken. SB 741 deals with generative artificial intelligence (AI), which can be used to create an image or video or sound recording of a minor who isn’t real. This bill would make it illegal to create, distribute or possess media that shows a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, even if the minor portrayed was entirely generated by AI.

Bad: HB 4299 — “Permit teachers in K-12 schools be authorized to carry concealed firearms as a designated school protection officer.” The answer to gun violence is never more guns. This bill feeds on the myth that school shootings can be prevented by a good guy with a gun. Look at Parkland, where the armed school resource officer ran away from the shooting, or Uvalde, where dozens of armed and trained law enforcement agents stood around and refused to engage with the shooter, who then went on to kill several more people before finally being stopped hours later.

Even setting that aside, there are two practical issues with this bill: 24 hours or less of training is not enough and it undermines all the efforts schools have made to keep firearms out of their buildings. Can a teacher really be prepared to point a gun at one of their students? Is 24 hours of training enough to make sure that they only hit the threat, not any innocents, when chaos and panic break out? What if a student — or someone else — gets ahold of a teacher’s gun and uses it to shoot students and staff members?

Stupid: HB 5105 — to remove vaccine requirements for students attending virtual public schools; expanded through amendment to allow private schools to adopt their own policies and to allow parents citing religious beliefs to opt out of vaccination requirements at any school in West Virginia.

One of the few things West Virginia has done right in regards to children and health is to have childhood vaccine requirements. It has prevented our state from seeing outbreaks of severe but preventable diseases like we’ve seen recently with measles in Florida and polio in New York.

Hoppy Kercheval made a good point in his commentary this week: The new “religious” exemptions are so loose, “What is to prevent parents from just stating a religious reason when in fact their objection is based on something they saw on the internet or heard from a friend?” And we know there is a ton of misinformation about vaccines on the internet.

Republicans like to proclaim religious freedom or — ironically — bodily autonomy when it comes to vaccines, but vaccines are not just for the person receiving them: Vaccines are essential for protecting those who cannot get vaccinated and for keeping diseases at bay. Think of every vaccinated person as a brick in a wall keeping out disease: the fewer bricks in the wall, the more holes for disease to come through, and the more dangerous it can be for everyone.

Honorable mentions:

The Senate is advancing its own version of the “Women’s Bill of Rights,” but SB 601 does not include the amendment from the House version (HB 5243) that eliminates the marital rape exemption. So pay close attention to which version is moving.

After being sent to Senate Rules for a couple weeks, SB 468 — to require schools to show kids the anti-abortion propaganda video “Meet Baby Olivia” — was resurrected and passed the Senate. Those who spoke in favor of it did so almost solely on religious grounds; those who spoke against it — including one Republican lawmaker who is an actual medical doctor — did so because of its inaccuracies.  Make sure your local delegates know this misleading video has no place in our schools.