A version of “Erin’s Law,” which would authorize schools to develop sexual abuse and assault programs, is currently before the education committee in the Nebraska Legislature.
LB143, introduced by Sen. Dave Bloomfield from District 17, would require the Nebraska Department of Education to develop a model child sexual assault policy to help schools set their own sexual abuse policies.
As written the proposed, the legislation would leave the decision on whether or not to adopt the policy up to the individual school districts.
If the school elects to adopt the policy, the school would provide child sexual abuse training to staff. The policy would include defining child sexual abuse and recognizing child sexual abuse warning signs.
North Platte Public Schools already has a policy regarding child abuse and neglect, according to associate superintendent Tami Eshleman.
“We regard student safety and security as a high priority,” Eshleman said. “We work with law enforcement and/or Child Protection Services with reporting and investigations.”
According to NPPSD’s policy, school employees will learn to recognize the symptoms of child abuse, know how to report it and provide continuing support and encouragement to abused children and their families. While school employees are not responsible for the actual investigation of and intervention in child abuse cases, they are to work with law enforcement and CPS.
Any reporting of suspected child sexual assault or child abuse is documented and reviewed by the director of student services, Eshleman said,
“Our school counselors recently did some training with the Bridge of Hope Child Advocacy Center,” she said.
The proposed legislation is “better than nothing,” said Bridge of Hope executive director Anne Powers.
“I am glad the conversation is happening,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about sexual assault that happens to kids. [The proposed legislation] is a good start on the discussion.”
Education about child sexual assault in not consistent in schools, Powers said.
“I think this would be a step in the right direction, providing structure for a hard topic,” she said. “I would be in full support of anything that keeps the conversation going about how sexual assault occurs and what to do. That’s extremely important.”
“Erin’s Law” is named for Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused by a neighbor and a cousin as a child. Merryn’s mission is to advocate for children getting age-appropriate education to recognize and talk about sexual abuse.
Merryn’s efforts have led to passage of Erin’s Law in several states, including Illinois and Arkansas.