Sponsors Distinguish Sex Abuse Prevention Bill from Sex Education Efforts

The sponsors of a bill to educate children on preventing childhood sexual abuse sought to distinguish their measure from other sex education efforts at a Tuesday meeting of the House Health Committee.

Reps. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) and Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) said their bill, HB321, would require age-appropriate instruction in child sexual abuse prevention for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade and age-appropriate instruction in sexual violence prevention education for seventh through twelfth grades.

“The Ohio Department of Education would be required to provide free resources for schools and instructors to create their curricula. Each school district, educational service center, community school and STEM school would be required to include training on child sexual abuse in its in-service training for teachers and other professionals,” Kelly said, adding that such curricula are already in use in 37 states and available for use in Ohio.

Lipps added, “According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, one in five girls and one in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. Every nine minutes, child sexual abuse claims are substantiated. Children are often taught to be on the lookout for ‘stranger danger;’ however, 95 percent of child sexual abuse is by someone the child knows and trusts.”

Impetus of Bill

He said the bill stemmed from a situation in his district where a teacher from Springboro was charged with 36 counts of gross sexual imposition involving 28 students all under the age of 13, with law enforcement believing possibly more students could have been abused and that 88 students were affected in total.

Lipps explained that the teacher set up a classroom reward system where children who exhibited good behavior were rewarded by being called up to the front of the class to sit on the teacher’s lap. This was discovered when a student reported to her mother she was disappointed at not being chosen, and a camera was installed in the classroom to collect evidence on the teacher’s behavior.

A parent from that classroom wrote to Lipps, saying, “I knew to talk to my little girl about it very early on. I truly felt she understood. … Someone can come in and teach children this early on, a professional, someone trained to know what and how manipulative child molesters are. Someone to teach them the things parents didn’t think of, and then maybe there wouldn’t have been 88 of them, maybe there would’ve been one or two before someone stood up and recognized that it was wrong.”

Committee Chairman Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) noted the bill had been introduced in previous General Assemblies and asked how the bill has changed.

“We made no changes to the previous bill. The priority has changed because I need to go home to 88 victims,” Lipps said.

About Prevention – Not Sex Ed

Responding to a follow-up, Lipps said the only opposition to the bill has come from those “vehemently opposed” to sex education in schools.

Committee members sought further clarifications, with Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) asking whether the bill was more about prevention than sex education, and Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) asking whether the bill will “get information to the child before it becomes sex ed.” The sponsors said the bill is more about preventive education than sex education.

Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland) asked how the bill would balance the concerns of parents, and asked whether there could be another remedy for the situation directed more at teachers than young students. Lipps said he could provide sample curricula to the committee, and Kelly said the bill is not aimed at teachers, but is instead targeted to students to give them the knowledge to recognize inappropriate behavior regardless of the circumstance.

Responding to a question from Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem), Lipps said the bill would not mandate specifically what curriculum a school uses, but instead would mandate that a school dedicates a certain number of hours to the program.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on October 1, 2019.