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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: September 19, 2017 02:06 PM
From: Representative Katharine M. Watson
To: All House members
Subject: Child Exploitation Awareness Education Program
Dear Colleague,

I soon will introduce legislation that will require Pennsylvania’s public schools to incorporate an age-appropriate child exploitation awareness education program into the existing curriculum for students in kindergarten through eighth grade beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

Currently, as established by Act 71 of 2014, the Public School Code gives schools the option of implementing such a program. Schools that choose to do so may use the model child exploitation awareness education curriculum developed by the PA Department of Education. The participating schools must also provide four hours of child exploitation awareness training every five years for educators assigned to teach child exploitation awareness education, and can use the training materials made available by the Department.

My legislation makes two important changes to the current law:

First, it makes implementation of a child exploitation awareness education program mandatory for all school entities (defined as a school district, charter school, cyber charter school, intermediate unit or area vocational –technical school).

Second, it allows schools to meet this requirement by partnering with a local community organization, such as a police department, to implement the program at no cost to the school if the school determines it does not have sufficient resources to implement such a program. A participating community organization would have to be one that is approved by the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) Advisory Committee.

Local police departments and other community organizations often have experience in conducting related programs as part of their community outreach and can provide valuable expertise. Such a public-private partnership could be an incredible asset to a community in the interest of protecting children from sexual abuse and educating them about the dangers that exist in our society today.

It is a horrific reality that child sexual abuse occurs in every community and on every socio-economic level. Sexual predators come from every walk of life and many times are either family members or others who are in positions of authority or trust. In the age of social media and the Internet, predators have even more access to our children.

As Chairwoman of the House Children and Youth Committee, I consider myself a voice for Pennsylvania’s children and I feel a strong responsibility to protect them. I believe it is imperative that we take every opportunity to prevent child sexual abuse. Certainly, providing this essential educational tool in our schools is an opportunity we can’t afford not to take. Our children’s safety is at stake.

I hope you can stand with me to protect children and sign on to this important legislation.

Introduced as HB1844