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Sex abuse-prevention education bill on its way to the governor

Published March 12, 2014 5:45 pm

Legislature • The bill would require Schools to develop a curriculum aimed at helping prevent child-sex abuse.
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The Senate and House gave final approval Wednesday to a bill requiring development of a school curriculum to teach children about sexual abuse. HB286s2 endured debate at every stop on its way and now heads to Gov. Gary Herbert for signing.

The Senate voted to amend the bill to include a clarification about how the proposal would work with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), an existing federal law that protects students' privacy. Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said his amendment flags to privacy provisions already in the law, but HB286s2 carves out a narrow provision so that parents may "opt out if it's for the narrow issue of child abuse."

The Senate gallery was filled with proponents of the bill, including Miss Utah Ciera Pekarcik, Elizabeth Smart and Deondra Brown, who have testified on behalf of the bill in earlier hearings.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said the amendment needed more time and with the Senate gallery full of people, the bill should be passed in its current form. But the Senate passed out the amendment in an oral vote. Soon after, the House concurred with the amendment and approved the bill.

Senators gave the bill preliminary approval Tuesday after emotional testimony in which two lawmakers publicly acknowledged for the first time they were sexually assaulted as children.

If the bill becomes law, school programs would not be implemented until the 2016-2017 school year. It attempts to aid in preventing child-sexual abuse by educating children in school programs. Past debate on the bill surrounded parents' rights to educate their children on sexual abuse, and under the bill, parents can opt out of the school program.

While opponents of the bill were concerned with parents' rights, proponents argued that much of child-sexual abuse is perpetrated by parents and relatives. Of the perpetrators in confirmed cases of child sexual abuse in 2013, 49 percent were parents or relatives of the victim, according to the Department of Human Services.


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