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Teen-2-Teen: March 2017

Teens CAN have a voice at the Legislature

By Megha Bharadwaj

Megha Bharadwaj, an 8th grader at Light of Christ Academy in Bismarck
Megha Bharadwaj

A school is an educational facility where learning takes place and students make friends. It must be a safe place both inside and on its grounds — but currently, no law in North Dakota exists to protect students from high-risk sexual offenders who might be living in the immediate area.

These offenders are dangerous to people my age because they are likely to offend again based on their previous actions. Currently, they are allowed to live anywhere, including near schools and childcare centers. One of my classmates, Katie Kelsch, took the initiative and talked to Lisa Meier, a legislator who represents District 32 in the House of Representatives. Rep. Meier stated it is extremely important to protect children from people who could reoffend.

Rep. Meier also talked to me about the process of this bill, starting with conversations that began last year. Katie and her mother had approached Rep. Meier because Katie wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a dangerous sex offender living near her school. Rep. Meier decided to write a bill and propose it to the N.D. House of Representatives. I believe in this bill, as well as many of my classmates.

Why did none of us bring this issue up before? Why do we, as teenagers, not give our opinions on these kinds of issues? I believe most people our age feel like we can do nothing, and we are not represented. That has been proven wrong by kids across America, including Katie. She never struck me as the type of person who could inspire a bill or make a dramatic change in the world. When I asked her why she brought up this issue, she simply responded, ‘Because I didn’t feel safe.”

This is an important lesson for teens. If you don’t feel good about a certain law, you can do something about it. We shouldn’t be scared or nervous, because we do have a voice in this system. If there is something you think that we, as a state, could do to improve our quality of life, then contact your area representatives and turn your idea into a bill. Young people aren’t only the future; we are also the present.

Megha Bharadwaj, 13, is an eighth grader at Light of Christ Academy in Bismarck, where she is involved in FBLA, SADD, Student Congress, Central Dakota Children’s Choir, speech, Student Council and volleyball. She also likes to sing, play instruments, hang out with friends and read. Megha is the daughter of Dr. Jayaram Bharadwaj and Dr. Savitha Bharadwaj, who are members of Capital Electric Cooperative.