Advisory council discusses Erin’s Law on child sex abuse

Members of a new advisory council are searching for ways to help teachers train to protect their students from sexual assault and abuse. 

But some members of the Kansas School Mental Health Advisory Council also said Thursday that many teachers are already overwhelmed with classroom demands, mental health resources have decreased and teacher training must be relevant and not simply an item to be marked off a checklist. 

The council was established by the State Board of Education to advise on unmet needs in school mental health and coordinate with legislators and stakeholders in efforts to benefit students in social and emotional growth.  

The council also was created to work on a recommendation of a version of Erin’s Law, which was approved by the House during the past legislation session but wasn’t taken up by the Senate.  

HB 2048 would have required the State Board of Education to implement statewide standards that assured public school teachers received annual training on identifying likely warning signs indicating that a child may be a victim of sexual abuse. 

State Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, and chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, said making sure teachers are trained to spot possible child sexual abuse is critically important to ensure children get away from their abusers and receive the help they need. “If they trust you that much to tell you this deep secret about what is going on in their life, you’ll be able to respond to it,” Jennings said. 

Christie Appellhanz, executive director of the Children’s Alliance of Kansas, said schools need resources to effectively help prevent child sexual abuse. 

“How this is delivered is critically, critically important,” Appellhanz said. “Let’s do this is a meaningful way that protects our kids.” 

A KASB Newsmakers video conversation about the advisory council’s work with Appellhanz, who is also a member of the Seaman USD 345 school board, Sharon Frankenbery, a member of the Altoona-Midway USD 387 school board and LeEtta Felter, a member of the Olathe USD 233 school board can be seen here. 

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