Rep. Terri Collins' bill, dubbed Erin's Law, calls for the creation of a Governor's Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. The 13-member group would make recommendations for age-appropriate curriculum to be taught in classrooms with the intent of reducing the incidence of child sexual abuse in the state.
Collins, R-Decatur, said she wasn't surprised the bill passed as it has support from lawmakers and educators. She feels positive the bill will be able to pass in the Senate during the four remaining days of the legislative session.
Erin Merryn, 30, a child sexual abuse survivor and creator of the legislation, said schools generally fail to give young students adequate awareness and a voice on the issue of sexual abuse.
She has fought for more than five years to changes state laws and ensure the curriculum is taught. God bless her.
Merryn's legislation sets requirements for kindergarten-12th grade students to be taught a curriculum that includes personal body safety - knowing the difference between safe touches and unsafe touches and safe secrets and unsafe secrets.
Collins said the task force will help ensure the legislation isn't an unfunded mandate as course materials aren't cheap, she said. The task force would provide recommendations on the style and type of the curriculum and who will administer it.
She also suspected that some school systems still won't be able to afford the curriculum; the task force would help determine the counties where there are higher incidences of child sexual abuse and help find a way for those schools to provide the program.
According to the legislation, the group's recommendations could include proposals for specific statutory changes and methods to foster cooperation among state agencies and between the state and local governments.
The content of the curriculum will remain at the discretion of the local school board, Collins said.
Merryn has made national headlines for her work to bring attention to child sexual abuse and her effort to change the law in all 50 states.
She was molested from the ages of 6-13, first by the uncle of a best friend, and then later by an older teenage cousin.
Erin's Law has passed in 21 states and is pending in 22 others.
Actually, according to her website, Erin's law has passed in 23 states and is pending in 20.
"I am happy to see the House in Alabama has passed Erin's Law in support of protecting and educating children from abuse," Merryn said in an email to AL.com. "I hope the Senate will do the same thing and see the great benefits for children through this law.
"I hope we can make Alabama be the half way point state number 25 to pass Erin's Law. Let's get it done before session runs out," she continued.
The governor's task force will consist of eight members appointed by the governor representing the eight regional school board districts, who work in the fields of child abuse and neglect prevention and child welfare; one member appointed by state superintendent of education; one member appointed by the commissioner of Department of Human Resources; one member appointed by the executive director of the Children's Trust Fund; the House Education Policy Committee chair, or his or designee; the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee chair, or his or her designee.
Task force members would not receive any compensation.