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Legal Review: Virginia Schools Teaching Child Abuse Prevention this Fall

By Criminal Defense Attorney Nicholas Braswell of Price Benowitz LLP

Math, science, history and English are all subjects expected to be taught in school. This school year, however, students will also be getting an education in child abuse prevention in some Virginia schools.

The move comes after Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill back in April, allowing the new program to be added to the schools’ curriculum. However, schools will not be required to include the new material in their family life education curriculum.

That is a step away from what the law currently requires of schools. All schools must already provide education on issues such as dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment and sexual violence. Many, such as the bill’s sponsors Senator Jennifer McClellan and Senator Jennifer Wexton, did not think that was enough and pushed to move this latest bill forward.

The bill went into effect on July 1, 2018, and included guidelines for the program. The guidelines suggest that the education be focused on preventing child abuse, recognizing child abuse, abduction and sexual abuse and exploitation. All programs are to be made age-appropriate for the grades these subjects will be taught in.

The new law, says Wexton, is a great step forward for Erin’s Law, a movement that is gaining attention around the country and asking schools to implement sexual abuse prevention programs. While Wexton does not believe this constitutes enough to comply with Erin’s Law, she does believe it is greatly paving the way.

“Many children do not know what to do if they are being abused or are not even aware that it is happening,” says Nicholas Braswell of the Richmond Defense Group. “Being accused of these kinds of abuses can be life-changing, so it’s important that we educate our youth on what healthy relationships and behavior look like so they are armed with solid information that keeps us all safe.”

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