Every six minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the United States. It’s a staggering statistic and one that North Shore schools hope to affect by instituting curricula to educate students about sexual abuse and its prevention. Beginning this month, all students in Illinois in grades pre-K through 12 will start to receive age-appropriate presentations during physical education or health classes in alignment with the new House Bill 6193, also known as Erin’s Law, that was signed by former Governor Pat Quinn on January 24, 2013.
In Northbrook District 30, student presentations begin next week. Topics to be discussed include distinguishing safe from unsafe touches, safety rules at home and school, how to say “NO,” and not keeping secrets, and telling trusted adults. “The focus of the presentation is to teach children basic skills to keep them safe from dangerous or abusive situations,” said representatives with Student Services.
The woman behind Erin’s Law is Schaumburg native Erin Merryn, an author, speaker, child advocate and activist who is the survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape by family members. She received national attention when she self-published her first book, Stolen Innocence: Triumphing Over a Childhood Broken by Abuse: A Memoir, while still a senior in high school. Since, Merryn has been devout in her mission to get all 50 states to pass Erin’s Law, which mandates that all public schools use age-appropriate curricula to teach students how to tell on anyone who touches or attempts to touch them inappropriately.
Illinois was one of the first to sign on, setting up a task force including Merryn, certified art therapists and psychologists and members of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Illinois, Prevent Child Abuse of Illinois and the Board of Education, among others, to begin putting together the materials.
In District 30, school officials have been closely working with Victor Pacini, a survivor of sexual abuse and a motivational speaker, to develop the material, which is “developmentally appropriate, interactive, and aligned with learning standards,” said the school in a news release.
Parents will have the chance to hear from Pacini during an informational night on March 23 at Maple School at 7 p.m. It will preview the student presentation and offer a Q&A session to answer any questions.
District 30 parents can opt children out from the prevention education session by e-mailing the child’s classroom teacher at Willowbrook and/or Wescott and at Maple addressing the e-mail to Asst. Principal, Betty Holzkopf ([email protected]).