School sex abuse guidelines proposed

The state Department of Education would be required to develop a model child sexual abuse policy under a bill discussed by the Education Committee Jan. 27.

Under LB303, introduced by Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield, the department would develop a sexual abuse policy for K-12 students by July 1, 2016, which would serve as a guide to schools that choose to adopt such a policy.

A school that adopts a child sexual abuse policy would be required to:
• publish the policy in any school handbook, manual or similar publication;
• present the policy to the students in the form of an age-appropriate educational program or school assembly; and
• provide child sexual abuse training to staff that is deemed appropriate by the school administration.

Bloomfield said the bill would ensure that school districts have a statewide source of information to draw from if they wish to develop a child sexual abuse policy beyond current health education requirements.

“There is nothing here that requires a school to do anything,” he said. “If they feel a need, this [bill] allows them to go to the Department of Education and get information.”

Michael Carnes, a child sexual assault survivor from Wayne, testified in support of the bill, calling it a step in the right direction toward more adequately teaching Nebraska children about sexual abuse.

Nationally, he said, one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. If one applied those statistics to Nebraska, he said, there would be “more than enough children to fill every seat in Memorial Stadium.”

Julia Tse of Voices for Children in Nebraska also testified in support, saying schools are a critical place to prioritize sexual assault education because children spend the majority of their time in school.

“LB303 provides a key opportunity to continue the work that Nebraska has done in recent years to keep children safe,” Tse said.

John Bonaiuto, representing the Nebraska Association of School Boards, testified in opposition to the bill. Laws already exist that require reporting of suspected child abuse, he said, and there are penalties in place for not reporting.

Bonaiuto said he appreciated the intent of the proposal, but said schools already are burdened by a long list of responsibilities in addition to educating children.

“How many more things can we add?” he said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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