"Please help us to help the children. Educate us all. Educate the ones that should have been there for her." Such testimony might ring hollow in a House Public Education Committee, but coming from Carolyn Mosley, mother of slain Reagan High School student Ortralla Mosley, the effect was quietly devastating.
Carolyn testified May 3 on behalf of HB 1166, authored by Austin's Rep. Dawnna Dukes. Created to defuse teen dating violence, HB 1166 seeks to halt "abuse used by a partner to harm, threaten, intimidate or otherwise control a partner," according to a bill analysis. Dukes seeks to accomplish this through school staff and instructor education. Mosley described a lack of institutional support in the days leading up to her daughter's murder by ex-boyfriend Marcus McTear. Ortralla "talked to people, begged people. That's what she was asking for all day long," said Carolyn, tears tumbling down her face as she shook in front of the dais. After describing her daughter's stabbing, she recounted her daughter's serene courage: "My baby looked up at him and said 'I'm sorry. I forgive you.'"
McTear, an athlete whose gridiron aggression extended far off the field, was a point of contention during the testimony. Members asked Reagan English teacher Vanessa Conner, who was with Ortralla when she died, questions about administrators' lapses in disciplining, counseling, and transferring McTear. "She was told to stay away from him because the district had no policy," Conner said.
Asked why, given a violent history, nothing was done about McTear, a voice from the crowd boomed, "Because he was a star athlete!" That voice belonged to RaeAnne Spence, a classmate of Ortralla, and a previous victim of McTear. When at one point Rep. Scott Hochberg brought up Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code, an alt-ed program for at-risk youth with emphasis on self-discipline, Spence sobbed, "I'm just a child. Chapter 37 didn't help me. It didn't help Ortralla." Rep. Dukes, herself a Reagan graduate, pointed to the school's current program, a collaboration with Austin nonprofit SafePlace, as heading off several violent incidents. Indeed, Conner stated that the previous day, a student had come forward out of concern for a friend. "They'll speak for one another. [A] young man was immediately removed from school yesterday," Conner said. Legislators reported HB 1166 favorably and sent it on to Calendars.
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