TRENTON –Today the Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senators Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Nilsa Cruz-Perez, and Shirley K. Turner requiring each local board of education to post information about the Department of Children and Families’ State Central Registry hotline for reporting child abuse, in each school of the district.
“We must do whatever we can to ensure our children are protected from abuse at home and school. Providing information about how and where to report this conduct is of utmost importance for the health and the safety of the children,”said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex).
“This change will bring awareness to our children regarding abuse that may be happening to them or to their friends and classmates,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Providing the hotline information is a small step we can take to give children the tools they need to report any type of abuse they are suffering within their homes or elsewhere without fear of further punishment.”
“These posters will give our children access to information about reporting abuse that they are going through,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon, Middlesex). “This will empower them through knowledge and could very well lead to protecting them from further abuse and, ultimately, saving their lives.”
The bill, S-2728, requires the board of education, within 30 days after its enactment, to prominently display information about the Department of Children and Families’ State Central Registry, a toll free hotline for reporting child abuse, in each school of the district. The information would be required to 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.
The information shall be in a format and language that is clear, simple, and understandable. The information shall be on a poster and displayed at each school in at least one high-traffic area and in a clearly visible public area that is readily accessible to and widely used by students.
In New Jersey, any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or acts of abuse is required to immediately report this information to the Department of Children and Families’ State Central Registry.
In 2012, almost a quarter of all reports of abuse and neglect came from schools, according to data from DCF. People who report abuse and neglect in good faith are protected from civil and criminal liability.
This act shall take effect on the 30th day after the date of enactment.
The bill was approved by the full Senate with a vote of 37-0. Now it heads to the Assembly for further consideration.