“Erin’s Policy” Seen As Effective Tool In Fighting Child Sexual Abuse
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 6, 2014
Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) today welcomed the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board’s unanimous adoption of “Erin’s Policy.” The measure directs the district to teach students techniques for recognizing and reporting sexual abuse, and train teachers and staff to recognize signs of abuse and how to respond to them. The Board approved the policy at their meeting Tuesday night.
“The Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board should be commended for their leadership in moving forward with a policy that can have a positive impact for their more than 14,000 students,” Tarr said. “This is a great step forward and I look forward to working with the FNSB School Board in the future to make sure our students have essential information to keep them safe.”
The new policy is a localized form of “Erin’s Law,” introduced by Rep. Tarr in the 28th Alaska Legislature as House Bill 233. Rep. Tarr’s bill requires school districts to develop age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education in kindergarten through grade 12. The bill is part of a national effort to enact Erin’s Law in all fifty states (www.erinslaw.org). A similar measure passed the Alaska State Senate, but HB 233 stalled in the House Finance Committee at the end of session last spring, despite co-sponsorship by a majority of Representatives, including the House Speaker.
Children’s advocate and childhood abuse survivor Erin Merryn, for whom the law is named, praised the Board’s action. “I am thrilled Fairbanks schools are doing right by children and see the importance of the concepts encompassed by Erin’s Law,” Merryn said. “Adopting this as district-wide policy adds an extra layer of protection around the children of Fairbanks to ensure, if they were ever abused, they know how to speak up and tell instead of just being taught to be silent. Now, we just need the rest of Alaska to do this.”
Child abuse in Alaska is a chronic and devastating problem. In 2013, Office of Children’s Services statistics show 2,296 allegations of child sexual abuse with 1,817 unique victims. One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.