Bill aims to prevent child sex abuse

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the state to establish a sexual abuse prevention program for public school students.

House Bill 2430 would mandate the state Department of Education to create a program for students in grades PK-12 about child abuse and child sexual abuse prevention through “developmentally appropriate and evidenced-based instruction.” A companion bill also was introduced in the Senate, SB 2368.

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The bill also would require the DOE to provide training to teachers and staff, and inform parents and guardians about important child sexual abuse topics.

The program would begin in the 2019-20 school year. It would require a minimum of one hour of instruction on the topic per school year.

“Many parents are uncomfortable talking about this kind of thing with their kids, so it may not come up at home,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Richard Creagan, D-Naalehu, Ocean View, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona. “… And people often are abused by those they trust the most. So telling kids that, ‘Hey, this kind of touching is not OK,’ it needs to be brought up.”

Creagan said there probably will be an “opt-out” provision added to the program, should parents choose.

According to the bill, current sexual abuse prevention programs offered in Hawaii schools are “not consistent” and resources are limited.

The bill also says 31 states plus Guam passed laws requiring consistent sexual abuse prevention education. Those laws are collectively referred to as “Erin’s Law,” which is named after Erin Merryn, an Illinois child sexual abuse survivor who has led a national movement to require sexual abuse prevention programs, according to the bill.

One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of child sexual abuse by age 18, according to the bill.

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The House bill and its Senate companion cleared first readings and were referred to committees in their respective chambers.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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