A package of bills that unanimously passed the Assembly Education Committee on Monday aims to highlight the importance of preventing sexual assault in schools.
New Jersey Child Assault Prevention Director of Operations Cheryl Mojta told the Assembly Education Committee her organization has been going into schools across the state for more than 30 years to teach about prevention.
“On how to prevent peer assault, or bullying, stranger abduction like trafficking, and known adult assault, which could be sexual, physical or verbal,” Mojta said.
She says while there are willing schools and administrators that have embraced the program, there are also schools that have pushed back because their academic schedules are so full.
“It’s not always because they don’t believe in the program, but it’s just because they’re feeling pressures outside also,” she said.
Among other things the bills would require child abuse and sexual abuse training for all candidates for teaching certifications, require sexual abuse against a child to be reported to law enforcement, establish a task force within the Department of Education on prevention of sexual abuse of children, and require certain training for Department of Education arbitrators.
“Further additional training so they’re better equipped when they’re hearing these types of cases,” said the chair of the Education Committee, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt.
Lampitt says more needs to be done because nationally only 6 percent of children come forward when some sort of sexual abuse has happened in schools.
“We need to stop these predators. Too many of them develop these relationships with our young people just purely as a friendship, then it moves on to maybe social media, then it moves on because they develop feelings for these children, and then they take it too far,” Lampitt said.
Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso commended the chairwoman for her dedication on this issue.
“This is one of those issues that you would expect there to be bipartisan support. Everyone wants to protect our children,” said DiMaso.
Mojta says there is a whole generation of kids who have gone through school without learning they have the right to be safe, talk about assault and get help.
The package of bills now heads to the full Assembly for a vote. It has already passed the Senate.