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student ambassadors and Jacqueline Franchetti after setting pinwheels at Mary Jane Davies Green this spring. (Photo by Carin Forman)

Silent Betrayal: The NY Assembly’s Failure to Act on Kyra’s Law

By Shayna Blumenfeld, Téa Cotronis, Evan DiFranco, Philipp DiFranco, Henry France-Miller, and Logan Haase

Student Ambassadors with Kyra’s Champions

 

What if I was your child, and I was being abused at the hand of my other parent? And, what if that abuse escalated to my death? Would that be enough for you to take action?
At school we are inundated with messages to tell authority figures when something is wrong, when we are being hurt, if someone has a weapon, or we are being bullied. And, as advocates with Kyra’s Champions trying to enact common sense reforms to New York Family Court to protect innocent and vulnerable children in custody cases from abusive parents — that is EXACTLY what we have done.
And, how did the New York State Assembly respond? You destroyed our lifeline, and the one bill – Kyra’s Law (A.3346C/S.3170C) – that could have protected many children from further harm.
Despite overwhelming support from your colleagues including 97 Assembly cosponsors (that is 2/3rd of the chamber) and 36 Senate cosponsors (over ½ of the Senate), Kyra’s Law didn’t even make it onto the Assembly Judiciary Committee calendar this legislative session (the session ended on June 6th and will not resume until 2025). Why?
As middle and high schoolers, if we can understand that children need to be protected, then why can’t you – as public servants – ensure our safety comes first? When did New York children lose our right to live a life free of abuse?
New York has the highest rate of child abuse in the USA. And, in the last year alone, 11 New York children have been brutally murdered during a divorce, custody case, or separation – that is nearly one child a month! Our peers should have been protected. Instead, they were shot with a gun or cross bow, bludgeoned, hung, succumbed to hypothermia, overdosed, and left for dead. Yet, in New York Family Court, accounts of abuse against us and our friends result in our claims being tossed aside, and court-orders that result in children routinely being beaten, raped, and emotionally tormented.
And, no one seems to care.
To ensure you understood the ramifications of what has been allowed to happen in New York Family Court, we have testified publicly, held protests, called, emailed, met with and stood next to lawmakers demanding reform. We ran on Bereaved Mother’s Day to demand change. Orchestrated rallies in the Capitol, on Long Island, and all-around New York State. We’ve read the accounts of the child murders in investigative news stories while recognizing we could be the next headline, and seen these stories go viral reaching over 60+ million people on TikTok and other platforms. And, built a grass roots army of supporters.
We’ve raised awareness, we’ve made headlines, we’ve helped neighbors and friends send over 275,000 emails to New York lawmakers. We showed the true horrors of family court and how children are being abused and murdered at epidemic rates. We even presented a commonsense, bipartisan supported solution. And yet that solution, Kyra’s Law, isn’t worth your time and didn’t even make it out of a single committee. The Assembly Judiciary Chair, Charles Lavine from Glen Cove, couldn’t even calendar it?
While walking the hallways in the Legislative Office Building and Capitol in May with a photo of the black and blues on one of our neck’s, in a hospital bed, and sharing accounts of abuse, we were told by Assemblymember Lavine that laws ‘already existed’ and Kyra’s Law wasn’t needed. He told us there wasn’t enough time to pass Kyra’s Law. After the budget went long, and you took a two-week vacation break. You know truly who doesn’t have time? Us. Because some of us may not make it to next year.
For us, this isn’t a school project. We don’t get extra credit here. Our friends and our peers are dying. Like with 2-year-old Kyra Franchetti, the inspiration behind Kyra’s Law, this is a matter of our very own life or death.
Because of your outright failures a staggering number of New York children will continue to be court-ordered to live in a war zone that they are forced to call “home.” Our friends will be beaten, raped, placed in emotional strangleholds that will define their childhood. Some will run away. Some will attempt suicide. Some will barricade themselves in their rooms hoping to live abuse free. Not one of them will be without devastating lifelong scars.
Tell us when will the New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Charles Lavine act to protect us? When 50 children New York children are murdered? 100? When it is your child?
New York has a family court crisis. We turn to you – those in positions of power – for help, yet you turn your head while we continue to be terrorized.
And, Governor Kathy Hochul, you have said that New York children are your top priority. Why haven’t you responded to our cries for help? You aren’t doing what we asked. And, you are NOT there when we need you most. Will you ever step in?
While our words are harsh for some lawmakers, we also want to take a moment to profusely thank those who have stood with us at events and rallies, and championed our cause, and want to make Kyra’s Law a reality, especially Assemblymember Gina Sillitti, Councilmember Marianne Dalimonte, Councilmember Christine Lui, and Senator Jack Martins. We are forever indebted to you and need to express our immense gratitude for listening to us, taking us seriously, treating us like equals, and helping to protect us. You are the ones who continue to give us hope, especially on the many dark days like today.
For those of you who dismiss us, who have sidelined Kyra’s Law, and told us another year of waiting for this bill to become law … you betrayed us.
Know this, we DO NOT care for your ‘thoughts and prayers.’ We want the chance to grow up and live a life free of abuse. We are watching. We want action. We want protection. We want Kyra’s Law!
(A portion of this commentary ran in the Times Union)

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