NEW JERSEY – The Senate Education Committee has passed “Erin’s Law” legislation long-sponsored by Senator Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) to require school districts to incorporate sexual abuse prevention and awareness education into the NJ Student Learning Standards, formerly known as the core curriculum.
Senator Bucco is working with local advocates and child sexual abuse survivor Erin Merryn, for whom the law is named, to swiftly advance the measure. Merryn has successfully advocated to enact Erin’s Law in more than two dozen other states.
“93 percent of kids who are sexually abused know their attacker – it could be family-friend, a sibling, or even a parent. Teaching our children not to talk to strangers just isn’t enough when their abuser could be hiding in plain sight,” Senator Bucco said. “The ‘safe touch’ education that Erin’s Law will require can empower kids to recognize the signs of abuse and speak out the moment it occurs.”
“We have spent years fighting for Erin’s Law and we will not stop until every child, in every New Jersey classroom, has access to this education,” Senator Bucco added. “No child should feel ashamed or suffer in silence. As a father, a grandfather, and a longtime advocate for all kids in my state, I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this law passed this session. For the sake of our children, we simply cannot afford to let this bill die again.”
“Without Erin’s Law kids are often only going to be educated to be quiet on this matter and those are the kids that are being abused,” Erin Merryn said. “Had this law existed when I was a child, I could have spoken up. Instead I stayed silent. I am thrilled that Senator Bucco is sponsoring this bill and understands the importance of protecting kids from abuse. 35 states have already passed Erin’s Law. New Jersey should be next.”
Senator Bucco’s bill requires all school districts to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse awareness and prevention education in grades preschool through 12 as part of Core Curriculum Content Standards in 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 New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA), Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey and other entities with relevant experience, must provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources designed to implement this requirement.
“Sexual violence is 100 percent preventable,” Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of NJ CASA, said. “Sharing prevention principles with young people is key to culture-change work and we look forward to working with our allies and stakeholders to determine ways we can support a strong sexual violence prevention infrastructure in our New Jersey schools.”
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, who testified before the committee.
“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.”