Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Patricia Egan Jones, Jamel Holley, Angela McKnight and Joann Downey to require school districts to display the State’s child abuse hotline in schools recently received final legislative approval, passing the full Assembly 76-0. The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.
“The #MeToo movement has demonstrated how difficult it can be for even adult victims to report abuse,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Children who are experiencing abuse may not how to ask, or where to turn for help. Having this information prominently displayed in schools can help empower these children to report the abuse and bring their perpetrators to justice.”
“Children who are being abused will often stay quiet out of fear and shame,” said Jones (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This is a simple and discreet way to get them the information they need so they can report the abuse and start the healing process.”
The bill (A-425) would require a board of education to prominently display information about the Department of Children and Families’ State Central Registry – a toll free hotline for reporting child abuse – in all district schools. The information must give instructions to call 911 for emergencies and include directions for accessing the department’s website or social media platforms for more information on reporting abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Under the bill, the registry information is required to be in a format and language that is clear, simple, and understandable. The information must be on a poster and displayed at each school in at least one high-traffic, highly and clearly visible public area that is readily accessible to and widely used by students.
“The scars of unreported abuse can run long and deep. No one should have to carry such a burden, especially a child,” said Holley (D-Union). “Seeing the hotline every day when they are in school will hopefully help them find the fortitude to tell their stories and report their abusers.”
“Many children fail to report abuse out of shame or fear that they won’t be believed,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Having this information in schools can help send a clear message that they are not alone, they do not deserve what is happening to them and that there is a way out.”
“Reporting abuse is not easy, especially when it is being inflicted by someone they thought they could trust,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Children need to know that this is wrong, and that there are entire resources dedicated to helping them. Posting this information in schools can help drive that message home.”
The measure passed the Senate last June by a vote of 40-0.