*photo of Erin Merryn as a child, taken from http://www.erinmerryn.net/erins-law.html
The Mahomet-Seymour School District will begin educating students in grades K-12 on sexual abuse as mandated by the State of Illinois, beginning in early February.
As required by “Erin’s Law,” Public Act 96-1524, school districts are required to adopt and implement a policy addressing sexual abuse of children that includes age-appropriate curriculum, training for school personnel on child abuse, educational information to parents or guardians provided in the school handbook on the warning signs of a child being abused, and intervention and counseling for students affected by sexual abuse.
Illinois was the first state to sign the first version of Erin’s Law in 2011. Former Governor Pat Quinn created a task force of 19 professionals, which included teachers, school administrators, the State Board of Education, law enforcement, academic curriculum experts, researchers, DCFS, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Illinois, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Erin Merryn in 2011. The group met to look at curriculum development for students in grades Pre-K through fifth grade.
Until 2010, Erin Merryn worked as a family counselor. After leaving her job, she became devoted to creating a sexual abuse national awareness campaign for students to receive information, guidance and help about sexual abuse.
Merryn, a Schaumburg native, was sexually abused as a child from the time she was 6 to 8 years old, then again from the time she was 11 to 13 years old.
Erin’s Law allows school districts to decide how to implement the sexual abuse education into their classrooms.
M-S Superintendent Lindsey Hall said students in grades K-5 will receive age-appropriate information from the school social worker in their classrooms.
Middletown Prairie and Sangamon Elementary students will read, Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Maude Spelman and No Means No by Jayneen Sanders
Lincoln Trail Social Worker Cynthia Johnson said that because students in grades 3 through 5 are at such different points developmentally, she will share a different book with each class.
Johnson will read “No Means No!” by Jayneen Sanders, to third and fourth-grade students. She may read “Fred the Fox Shouts ‘No’!” by Tatiana Y. Kisil Matthews, although she is still undecided.
Fifth-grade students will listen to “Do you have a secret?” by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos.
Mahomet-Seymour High School Social Worker Erin Graham said the material in Erin’s Law is already covered in the Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Health Education Act for students grades 6 through 12.
Students in grades 6 through 9 will continue to receive sexual abuse education in health class.
Graham said that students in grades 10-12 will receive “booster” training on healthy relationships, recognizing teen dating violence and how to seek assistance, during their advisory period.
Hall said parents will have the opportunity to remove their child from this instruction if they see fit.
In an email that went out last week, director of Special Education Christine Northrup informed parents that K-12 teachers are trained to recognize and report child sexual abuse.
The training consists of a video presentation and follow-up questions through Bushue Human Resources, INC.
Secondary teachers are also trained to recognize and report teen dating. She said, “part of the training includes how to respond to and support students who have been abused and strategies to support a safe and supportive school environment.”
This training happens annually, according to Northrup.