Georgia’s children need to know what to do if they are being sexually abused.
That’s the thinking behind House Bill 762, which mandates annual sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education for public school students in kindergarten through their freshman year of high school.
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The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, said at subcommittee hearing of the Georgia House Education and Youth Committee Thursday that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused, usually by a relative or a family friend. And they don’t know whom to turn to.
“They go through years enduring something they should not have to endure,” said Cantrell, who acknowledged that teachers may need training to address this sensitive topic in an age-appropriate way. “There’re probably a lot of teachers out there who are going to say, ‘Whoa, I need help with this,’” he said. But 31 states states already mandate such education for students.
In an interview, Cantrell said he was motivated by several factors. He knows a fellow lawmaker whose grandchild was abused. And he was moved by the trial of serial child molester Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor, especially by testimony that the parents of one girl didn’t believe her when she told them what he’d done to her.
“Parents need to be educated too,” Cantrell said, “but I don’t know how to mandate parents.”
The subcommittee voted to pass the bill on to the full House education committee for further consideration.
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