House Bill 292 was signed into law on June 9, 2016. This bill requires schools to post the toll-free telephone report line number for child abuse and neglect in a conspicuous location, where it may be viewed by students.
This legislation came from a woman from Texas who was molested as a child by family members. She has been working throughout the United States to pass similar legislation in every state. So far – Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginians have passed this law or one similar to it. Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee have introduced the legislation.
Below is what she originally had sent to me asking if I would be willing to help. When I read her story, it broke my heart thinking about this young child being molested by her family – the very ones who were to protect her.
Today, schools are teaching students to report “acts of violence.” As a child, I was molested by multiple males I am related to. If I had been asked if I had endured an “act of violence” it would not have been on my radar. I did not consider the molestation or even the rape I endured as an “act of violence” because the perpetrators were family. I mistook the emotions they exhibited during the assaults as a show of affection for me. I reported the abuse to my mother–who chose not to protect me. Other adults in the family made the decision not help me. I kept the secret while in school because of shame and I was warned not to tell.
As an adult my internal dialog told me that since my own mother wouldn’t help me-didn’t love me-how could anyone else so I kept my secret until I was in my mid-fifties. I am now using my secret as a testimony to encourage legislators to pass legislation on behalf of students who are currently being molested by posting the toll free child abuse hotline telephone number in schools where students will view it every day.
Teachers are mandated reporters in Texas. If a teacher had suspected I was being molested I am confident they would not have reported it due to who my family was. It was common knowledge in the small conservative town I was raised in that my great-grandparents organized the first church in town of any denomination. I have talked to school employees who suspected a student was being abuse but didn’t report it. You can’t depend on teachers to recognize all students who are being molested or to report all cases.
What I do know is this, if I had of gone to school every day and seen a toll-free child abuse hotline I would have known automatically that there was someone on the other end of that telephone who wanted to help me. I would have called it for help, the sexual abuse would have stopped, and I would have done better in school and sought a higher education.
Texas schools were required to post the child abuse hotline number prior to my law. In my research I discovered the number was being posted in areas where students would not view it. I found the number in teacher’s lounge, in the student handbook, in the entry way of the administrator’s office in lettering so small it was difficult to read, and one school had the number posted so high on the wall it was touching the ceiling…thus the language of the law.
Now public and open enrollment charter schools in Texas are required to post on all campus, in a clearly visible location, in a public area of the school that is readily accessible to students, a sign in English and Spanish posted 11 x 17 or larger, at student eye level, containing the toll-free child abuse hotline telephone number operated by the Department of Family and protective Services, instructions to call 911 in cases of emergencies and direction to www.txabuse.org. (Texas Education Agency determined the size and location of the poster.)
To the woman in Texas, thank you for advocating for those who do not have a voice. Thank you for all the work you are doing to protect children.