LANSING — State Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) introduced House Bill 4975 today, which would require schools to adopt a policy on how to handle disclosures of sexual abuse from students.
“Children who have suffered sexual abuse have been through enough,” said Hertel. “We all have a responsibility to listen to young people and respond after they tell an adult what has happened to them. Schools should be helping their educators learn to do this in a way that is both culturally sensitive and psychologically sound.”
In 2013, the Michigan Legislature enacted “Erin’s Law” in honor of Erin Merryn, a survivor of child sexual abuse. That legislation created the Michigan Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. Among its duties, the task force was charged with making recommendations to the Governor and Legislature for reducing child sexual abuse in Michigan, particularly regarding school policies that address sexual abuse of children. In its 2015 report, the task force cites national figures showing that 25 percent to 40 percent of women and 8 percent to 13 percent of men report at least some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18. The 2013 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — an annual telephone survey of adults in the state — found that 16 percent of women and five percent of men reported a history of child sexual abuse victimization.
Hertel’s bill would ensure that schools have a policy in place if a student reveals that he or she has been the victim of a sexual assault. His bill would also require professional development for educators on how to handle this disclosure.
“It’s time to take action on this 2015 report, and I think making sure that our schools are prepared and know what to do if a student confides in a teacher or another adult at school is a good place to start,” said Hertel.