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President signs law named for volunteer
Raises protection for Peace Corps
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Forsyth County News

President Barack Obama has signed into law federal legislation named for a local Peace Corps volunteer who was slain in west Africa.

The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011, which provides better security and protection for the organization’s volunteers, unanimously cleared the U.S. House earlier this month and was approved by the U.S. Senate in September.

The bill is named for 24-year-old Catherine "Kate" Puzey, who was murdered in 2009 in Benin, where she taught English for the Peace Corps.

Lois and Harry Puzey, who live in Forsyth County, have fought since their daughter’s death for answers from the Peace Corps and taken their quest to Washington, D.C. The organization issued an apology to them in February.

Lois Puzey has said her daughter was trying to make a difference in other’s lives and would be amazed at knowing her death affected positive change.

The Puzey family joined U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson on Monday at the nation’s capital for the presidential signing ceremony.

Isakson and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced the bill earlier this year.

Isakson said the day was historic for past, present and future Peace Corps volunteers.

"I commend Congress for unanimously passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 and President Obama for signing it into law today," Isakson said.

"May this new law honor the life of the remarkable young woman … as it ensures that all … who serve in the Peace Corps from now on have the protections they rightly deserve."

Puzey was killed within days of reporting that another teacher had been sexually abusing some of the students at the school where she taught.

She had tried to report the tip anonymously. Three suspects accused in her murder have been in custody for more than two years.

The bill provides whistleblower protection for the organization’s volunteers, a safeguard that existed for federal employees and likely would have given Puzey more protection when she reported the allegations.

The legislation also requires the Peace Corps to develop sexual assault risk-reduction and response training and protocol. The training is to be tailored to the countries where volunteers serve.