Two pivotal pieces of child protection legislation sponsored this year by State Senator John Curran (R-Downers Grove) have now been signed into law.
House Bill 3461, also known as “Erin’s Law,” requires schools to adopt a curriculum that includes sexual abuse and assault prevention instruction for students, and teacher training in how to prevent, recognize, report, and respond to child sexual abuse and grooming behavior. The new curriculum and teacher training provisions must be in place by July 1, 2022.
“As a member of the legislature’s Make SAFE Task Force, our charge was to study sexual abuse in schools and make recommendations to help improve students’ safety,” said Sen. Curran, the Chief Senate Sponsor of the bill. “We found that some, but not all, schools were teaching the components of Erin’s Law, but we felt it was imperative that it become a mandatory element of public school instruction and teacher training.”
Erin’s Law is named after sexual abuse survivor and Illinoisan Erin Merryn, who as a child suffered sexual abuse from a neighbor and family member. Today, as an adult survivor, she is an advocate, author and activist. With the signing of Erin’s Law, Illinois becomes the 36th state to include this mandatory training and curriculum.
House Bill 3462 also strengthens protections for children by providing that every child reported to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or law enforcement believed to be a victim of sexual assault or abuse has the right to have the child’s forensic interview conducted by an interviewer from an accredited children’s advocacy center. The new law strengthens the existing Bill of Rights for Children.
“This new law will provide for better care for children who have experienced significant trauma, by ensuring those important initial interviews are handled by experts trained in showing the utmost care when conducting these difficult, but necessary, forensic interviews,” added Sen. Curran.
Prior to being signed into law, both bills received unanimous support in the Senate and House.