Bucco Bill named after survivor requires age-appropriate “safe-touch” education for grades Pre-K through 12
The New Jersey Senate has passed “Erin’s Law,” legislation long-sponsored by Senator Anthony Bucco (R-25) to require all school districts to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention and awareness education into the NJ Student Learning Standards, formerly known as the core curriculum.
Today’s Senate passage follows a years-long effort by Senator Bucco, Erin Merryn – the survivor for whom the bill is named – and a number of other local advocates, who have worked together to ensure every child in New Jersey has the tools they need to recognize and report sexual abuse.
Erin’s Law, sponsored by Sen. Bucco, would require NJ schools to teach kids in grades Pre-k through 12 about sexual assault. The bill is named for Erin Merryn, a survivor who has become a national advocate. (Photo Courtesy of Erin Merryn)
Erin Merryn, a child sex abuse survivor who has become a national advocate, has successfully fought to enact Erin’s Law in states around the country. If signed, New Jersey would be the 36th state to enact Erin’s Law. Read Erin’s testimony here.
“Every child should understand how to recognize and report sexual abuse. Teaching kids not to talk to strangers isn’t enough when their abuser could be hiding in plain sight. 93 percent of kids know their attacker. They need age-appropriate safe-touch education to stay safe,” Senator Bucco said. “Erin and I have spent years trying to get this bill signed into law and we won’t stop until every child, in every New Jersey classroom, has access to this lifesaving information. We cannot allow anyone to suffer in silence for a moment longer.”
“None of this would have been possible without Senator Bucco and his staff, who always believed in Erin’s Law and understood how important it is to protect children. As a result, hopefully kids across New Jersey will soon be able to understand personal body safety, so they can use their voice if something horrible ever happens to them,” Erin Merryn said. “Now that the Senate has passed Erin’s Law, it is my hope that the Assembly will concur, and the Governor will sign our bill to help abused children right away. There is no time to waste.”
Senator Bucco’s “Erin’s Law” (A-769/S-1130) requires all school districts to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse awareness and prevention education in grades preschool through 12 as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.
Under Erin’s Law, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA), New Jersey Children’s Alliance, and other entities with relevant experience, must provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources designed to implement this requirement.
If the Assembly concurs and the bill is signed by the Governor, Erin’s Law would take effect in the first school year following the date the law is enacted.
“It’s never too early to begin talking to young people about the power they have to create a safer New Jersey ,” Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of NJ CASA, said. “By engaging young people, and the caring adults in their lives, in meaningful age-appropriate conversations about consent, bodily autonomy and respect, we can begin the culture-changing work of reducing sexual violence.”
In addition to NJ CASA, Senator Bucco’s legislation has also received resounding support from a number of other prominent victim’s rights advocates and support organizations, including Morris County advocate Richard Pompelio.
“I cannot overstate the importance of education in fighting back the tide of sexual abuse that occurs throughout New Jersey and the nation. The passage of Erin’s Law is a critical and essential component of the powerful effort on the part of our state legislators to address the evils of crime in an enlightened and positive manner,” Richard Pompelio, of the NJ Crime Victim’s Law Center, said. “The victims’ rights community once again thanks Senator Anthony Bucco for his tireless effort to provide fairness, compassion and respect to victims of violent crime.”
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