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Last updated: October 18, 2016

Bringing Sex Abuse Education to NJ Schools

Erin’s Law refers to a specific law being passed in many states. The law requires that schools adopt age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education programs starting in pre-school through high school. Some versions of the law allow sexual abuse training to qualify as teacher certification or continuing education credit or otherwise require such training. Since 2010, states across the country began enacting versions of Erin’s Law. It’s expected that at the end of the year, over half of all the states in the U.S. will have passed Erin’s Law.

Related: Parents Alert – Signs of Child Sex Abuse

States which have passed some version of Erin’s Law: California, Indiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, and Vermont.

It is named after a woman, Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused as a child by a neighbor and then an older cousin. She went on to become an author and crusader against child sex abuse and molestation.

Earlier this year, New Jersey state senator, Anthony Bucco (Morris and Somerset) sponsored a bill (No. 2145) which incorporates Erin’s Law. It was referred to the Senate Education Committee where no action has been taken. Scroll down for the version currently under consideration.

New Jersey’s legislature has considered Erin’s Law before. In early 2014, NJ state senator Robert Singer (Monmouth and Ocean counties) introduced a version of Erin’s Law.

The purpose of the law is to teach children how to prevent, recognize and report sexual abuse. Ms. Merryn has stated, “We have to teach kids the difference between a safe touch and an unsafe touch, a safe secret and unsafe secret. Without [the education programs], kids get one message, and it’s from their perpetrator who is victimizing them.”

Related: Mandatory Child Sex Abuse Reporting Laws in PA and NJ

Opponents of the law may argue that teaching pre-school children about sexual touching is entirely inappropriate. However, many laws include opt-out provisions, which allow parents to opt out of having their children participate in the program.

This law is crucial. Teaching children the importance of appropriate touching and how to recognize sexual abuse is key to preventing it. Please call your local NJ legislators and ask them to support this bill.

More: Damage Claims in Civil Sex Abuse Cases

Help for Victims of Sex Abuse

Victims of sex abuse deserve justice in the civil and criminal courts. Contact firm partner, Brian Kent, a former prosecutor for more information. 800.220.7600

New Jersey’s Proposed Version of Erin’s Law (Senate Bill 2145)

An Act concerning instruction on sexual assault prevention in public schools and supplementing chapters 35 and 26 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.

Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

1.    Each school district shall incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education in grades preschool through 12 as part of the district’s implementation of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.  The  instruction  shall  be  provided  by  a  school nurse. The Commissioner of Education shall provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources designed to implement this requirement.

2.    A teaching staff member may satisfy in each professional development cycle one or more hours of the professional development requirement established by the State Board of Education through participation in training programs on sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention.

3.    This act shall take effect immediately and section 1 shall first apply to the 2016-2017 school year.

STATEMENT

This   bill   requires   each   school   district   to   incorporate   age-appropriate  sexual  abuse  and  assault  awareness  and  prevention education in grades preschool through 12 as part of the district’s implementation   of   the   Core   Curriculum   Content   Standards   in Comprehensive  Health  and  Physical  Education. The instruction will   be   provided   by   a   school   nurse. The   bill   directs   the Commissioner  of  Education  to  provide  school  districts  with  age- appropriate  sample  learning  activities  and  resources  designed  to implement this requirement.

The bill also provides that a teaching staff member may satisfy in each  professional  development  cycle  one  or  more  hours  of  the professional   development   requirement   established   by   the   State Board  of  Education  through  participation  in  training  programs  on sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention.

This  bill  is  modeled  on legislation  adopted  in  a  number  of  other states.  The legislation in those states is often referred to as “Erin’s Law” in honor of the young woman, Erin Merryn, who was a child victim  of  sexual  abuse  and  has  been  advocating  for  the  passage  of the legislation to better educate and empower children.