SALT LAKE CITY — Utah schoolteachers would undergo training for child sexual abuse prevention every other year under HB228, which was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Utah Legislature's House Education Committee.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, requires school districts and charter schools to conduct the training and "provide, upon the request of the State Board of Education, certain evidence of compliance."
Deondra Brown, a member of the classical piano sibling quintet The 5 Browns and a survivor of child sexual abuse, said HB228 is also important to her as a parent of a daughter who is in the first grade.
"I see the importance her teachers play in her life. I see their influence for good every day, and I trust we're working together to watch out for her every day," Brown said, noting that her daughter would be late to school Wednesday because she wanted to watch her mom testify before the committee.
"I'm proud to be from a state where we make the protection of children a very high priority, and I ask you to support HB228 to help continue this very important work," Brown said.
Adults need to "step up to the plate" to reduce numbers of child sexual abuse cases statewide, she said.
"It's our responsibility to be educated on how to prevent abuse. It's our responsibility to protect children, and it's our responsibility to act," Brown said.
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said when she was a public schoolteacher, such training was not available, and when students confided in teachers they had been molested, teachers were unclear what to do.
"This is really, really important. Kids often will confide in a trusted teachers before they will tell a parent or someone in their family," Moss said.
The bill, as drafted, called for annual training, but it was amended by the committee to be required biennially. Romero said she considered the change "a friendly amendment."
Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said lawmakers must also be mindful of teachers who act out inappropriately with vulnerable students.4 comments on this story
"The definition of a child is under 18. You can't turn 18 in the middle of your senior year and think all of a sudden you're having a consensual relationship. There can't be grooming. There's been a half-dozen or so highly publicized incidents. I wish it never, never happened, and I wish it never, never even had to be discussed," he said.
The instruction for teachers must also include "the same training internally with their educators so it's widely known and recognized that it just can't happen and it must not happen," Christensen said.