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April 2022Vol. 23, No. 3A Call to Action on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation in the States

A report from Prevent Child Abuse America, A Call to Action for Policymakers and Advocates: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation in the States, assesses the legislative efforts of states to prevent child abuse in schools. The report reviews five types of prevention-oriented laws and provides an overview of states' efforts in each area. It also presents the results of a survey of advocates in each state about the successes and barriers they face.

The report reviews laws that achieve the following: 

  • Mandating child sexual abuse prevention education in schools
  • Improving screening of new job applicants and dismissing school employees engaged in sexual misconduct or abuse
  • Criminalizing educator-specific sexual misconduct
  • Establishing state task forces to address child sexual abuse
  • Requiring student safety posters in schools
The report notes that prevention needs to be a part of schools' fundamental mission due to the impact that trauma from sexual abuse has on children throughout their lives—including lessened social-emotional development and academic achievement and increased risk of physical and mental health challenges in adulthood. It also argues that schools need to take bold and unified action against sexual abuse through a comprehensive package of prevention policies and practices.
National trends over the past decade are encouraging, with several states implementing new laws aimed at prevention. Although the increase in legislative activity is promising, the variations in laws suggest that state legislators and advocates could benefit from utilizing recommended provisions outlined in the report.