‘SAFE’ package in the general assembly introduced to protect students from sexual predators
DELAWARE – Three bills introduced Monday afternoon are a part of what legislators are calling the ‘SAFE Package.’ Senate Bill 289, 290, and 291 are all part of making a clear distinction between appropriate and inappropriate relationships between children and educators.
Delaware lawmakers say they’re outraged by the number of sexual misconduct cases that have happened throughout the state’s school system. One school administrator and another custodian are facing child pornography charges, and a school board member was recently sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually abusing children. We’re told those cases are just the tip of the iceberg. “Every day that we send our children to school, to practice, or extracurricular activities, we expect them to return home to us safely,” says Delaware Senator and bill sponsor, Nicole Poore. Patty Dailey Lewis, CEO of the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children adds, “This is the first state, and will be the first state to step up to keep our children safe.”
Now many state leaders are pushing legislation to help by implementing the SAFE Package. It includes SB 290 which will expand on Erin’s law, requiring prevention-focused training for school staff and education for students about “grooming.” “Grooming is real, and we can take steps to protect our children from it without falling victim to fear-mongering,” says Sen. Poore.
SB 291 would require each school district and charter school to adopt a policy regarding appropriate and inappropriate relationships between students and school employees. “Let our students know what’s going on, have that conversation, it may be a tough conversation but these conversations need to happen,” says Representative and SB 291 sponsor, Valerie Longhurst.
SB 289 would expand the state’s sexual extortion law to include threats meant to compel or induce another person to produce a sexually explicit image of themselves or someone else or distribute such images. “Predators have become so expert in being able to solicit these images from kids, and once the child falls into this trap, it’s a nightmare,” says Representative and SB 289 sponsor, Krista Griffith.
Bills sponsors and leaders say students should not be subjected to physical, emotional, or psychological damage at the hands of people they trust and that action needs to be taken, immediately. “There is nothing more important in this state than protecting the children we all love and in whose care we are entrusted,” says Attorney General Kathy Jennings. Lewis adds, “They live with this pain, they live with this grief, they live with the shame every day, we must talk about it.”
Lewis also tells 47 ABC, that there are around 500,000 predators online preying on children and the average age of these children is only 12-years-old. In addition, only 20% of those being stalked online will ever tell anyone. Leaders say these bills will help in the efforts to address those statistics.
Legislators are also working closely with law enforcement to better understand how legislation can help in their efforts to catch predators.
SB 289 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and bills 290 and 291 have been assigned to the Senate Education Committee.