Last year, a wonderful bill was passed in the Utah Legislature, sponsored by Representative Angela Romero. HB286 "Child Sexual Abuse Prevention" adopts some of the recommendations of Illinois' Erin's Law Task Force.
HB286, requires schools to provide training for all educators on how to recognize, deal with and report sexual abuse in their schools. It also provides for the opportunity and guidelines in training guardians and children on how to recognize when a child has been abused and how to deal with the incident appropriately. The UT State School Board is actively working now to provide the appropriate, approved training which will be used in all schools beginning in the 2016-17 school year. We have been working with these same people on the state board, and I can assure you that they are taking this task very seriously and using the best resources in the nation for their work.
What a WONDERFUL bill HB286 is and I commend Rep. Romero, those legislators who voted for this crucial step, and the many survivors who stepped forward to educate the legislature about the importance of sexual abuse prevention in our schools.
There is more to be done. And I'm excited to say that more is being done even as we speak. The UT legislature began this year's session this past Monday and one of the primary focuses for several legislators is the building upon of last year's legislation. The bills are in their final stages of drafting now and then will begin to work their way through committee. So, as to avoid any misrepresentation of the bills before their reveal, I will just summarize some of the things that will be addressed in the current legislation session:
- Minimum standards for receiving and retaining an educator’s license
- Policies, procedures and oversight for administering the standards
- Survey requirement to assess and monitor the extent of abuse and progress in our schools.
- Revisions to UPPAC board governance
- Identify the indicators for sexual misconduct and abuse (“Improper Conduct”)
- Establish policies and procedures restricting Improper Conduct.
- Develop methods, procedures and databases for permanently tracking Improper Conduct
- Extend HB286 2014 to include sexual harassment training to all students K-12.
No one would ever choose to be a victim of sexual abuse. Wow...that was the understatement of the year. But I can say that I feel honored to stand alongside the likes of the many brave men and women that I meet on an almost-daily basis, who have survived such abuse, thrived in spite of it, and then used their horrific experience to prevent that abuse from happening to others.
One of this year's sponosrs, and a huge advocate to these bills that protect children and good teachers, is Senator Aaron Osmond. During discussions on HB286 in 2014, Osmond revealed that he had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
It was soon after that Senator Aaron Osmond (Republican – South Jordan) rose to speak. “As a child, I too was the recipient of abuse by a non-family member. It was a very devastating experience to me, personally. My parents loved me, and they cared about me and my brothers and sisters a great deal. However, they were inundated with pressure, financial pressure and stress at home. They didn’t have the time to engage me and provide me instruction and, frankly, they would have missed these parental notices anyway. We didn’t even talk about these things as a family and we were considered a great family from a unity perspective and our membership in our religious faith, and things like that, but we didn’t talk about these issues.”
“This isn’t a discussion about sex or sexuality,” Osmond added, “this is about a child recognizing that it is okay to say ‘no,’ and to stop an adult in any setting, whether it is in the home, whether it is in the school, or in any other environment where they feel unsafe… but there are multiple parents in our society who are so stressed out, working multiple jobs, engaged in so many things, they will not engage on this issue and that child will be vulnerable.”
As these bills come forth, we will post them on this website, and keep you apprised of their progress, so check with us often. We cannot do everything, but I can do something. Please...share this with the people you know and stand with us today in protecting our Most Sacred Trust.