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Senate Committee Amends And Passes 'Erin's Law' Legislation

Mar 23, 2015

The Oklahoma Senate
Credit Becky McCray / Flickr Creative Commons

Legislation that authorizes public schools to implement programs intended to help prevent child sexual abuse has been approved by an Oklahoma Senate committee.

The bill that originated in the House was first amended in ways that raises some concerns by the bill’s original House authors.

The Senate Committee on Education voted 12-1 for the House-passed bill Monday and sent it to the full Senate for a vote.

Republican Sen. A.J. Griffin of Guthrie says her bill is designed to empower children and young adults by giving them the skills to identify dangerous situations and avoid them. But Griffin also noted that the bill approved by the Senate committee “looked nothing like nothing like Erin’s law.”

HB1684, by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, and Griffin, modifies the requirements for teacher training on child sexual abuse matters. The bill, Griffin explained, does not change the already established requirements but goes into more detailed as to what that training must encompass. The bill clarifies appropriate reporting for child abuse claims because many school districts are not properly reporting claims, Griffin said.

Those evidence-based items specified do follow the provisions of the original Erin's Law but the committee substitute adds that any activities conducted must follow the provisions of Oklahoma's Parent's Bill of Rights, as well. The committee substitute language also offers additional protections for parents who opt their children out of this training program, a concern voiced by some House and Senate lawmakers during its first committee hearing.

The Daily Reporter says, "The measure would authorize age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention instructional programs for public school students. State Department of Education officials say no state tax dollars would be required to implement the programs but that there could be costs to local school districts."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 25 percent of women and 16 percent of men are sexually abused as children.

The bill is known as Erin's Law, named after a childhood sexual assault survivor in Illinois, and is similar to laws in effect in about 20 states.

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