Guest Commentary: Legislation protects Delaware kids from sexual abuse

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Democrat Nicole Poore represents Delaware’s 12th Senate District, which includes most of New Castle and the surrounding area. She is running for reelection in November.

Anyone who knows my family understands that sports and athletics are a central part of our lives. My husband, Bill, and I have spent countless hours driving our children to and from practice, cheering them on in their games and matches, and watching them grow stronger over the years — both physically and emotionally.

As parents, we put an extraordinary amount of faith in our children’s coaches, along with fellow parents who volunteer to chaperone away games and other adults who look after our kids when we aren’t around. But far too many students and student-athletes have experienced some form of abuse from a coach or a trusted adult — inappropriate behavior that isn’t always easy to report.

We have seen a disturbing level of sexual abuse committed by people in positions of authority and trust in recent years — from the doctor treating the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team to local headlines of teachers and coaches committing abuses here in Delaware.

It’s important for all of us — parents, teachers, coaches and school administrators — to know the signs and work together to prevent child abuse before it occurs.

That’s why I sponsored the Safety and Accountability for Everyone legislative package this year. The six bills we passed in the package will help to protect our children by giving school districts and police more tools to identify and prevent improper behavior by adults and hold them accountable when they fail in that mission.

Through Senate Bill 290 and Senate Bill 291, we expanded existing child abuse prevention training programs in schools to include discussions about grooming behaviors and required every school district and charter school to adopt a policy setting clear guidelines about what is and what isn’t an appropriate relationship between students and school employees, coaches, volunteers and contractors.

We strengthened Delaware’s laws related to child sexual abuse through bills like House Bill 428, which expands the definition of child pornography to include images of partially nude children, closing a loophole that predators have previously used to evade prosecution.

The package also included legislation to strengthen our state’s sexual extortion law, create the crime of enticement for purposes of sexual contact and make it clear that employers are liable for civil claims when their adult employees commit child sexual abuse on the job.

Finally, while it does not require the governor’s signature, we also passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 74, which encourages Delaware sports organizations serving children to utilize the services and best practices recommended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

While I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made through this package, I want to be absolutely clear that we are not done. Our students deserve a safe environment for them to learn, practice and play their sport. Parents of students deserve to know that their child is surrounded by adults who only want what’s best for them.

That’s why as a legislator, I will never stop fighting for safety and accountability for everyone.

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