AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A bill led by Texas’ senior senator that authorizes federal grants for training to help identify and prevent child sexual abuse passed the U.S. Senate this week.
The legislation is authored by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and is named after Texan Jenna Quinn, a survivor of child sexual abuse.
The bill ensures recipients of the grants through the Department of Justice coordinate with educational agencies to train on sexual abuse prevention and reporting. That training targets adults to recognize, report and prevent abuse.
Quinn said the pandemic has made spotting abuse more difficult.
“It’s because children are not around those mandatory reporters, those teachers, those, you know, after school staff, the daycare workers, you know, those that are around the children that can look for those, those warning signs, those indicators,” she said.
Quinn said 43 states have seen a decrease in child abuse reporting, which she called a “significant increase.”
“Unfortunately, I wish that meant that abuse wasn’t occurring, but we know that’s simply not the case,” she said.
The legislation is modeled after a state law passed in Texas in 2009 requiring child sexual abuse prevention training for pre-K through 12th-grade student and teachers.
“This is typically the problem that the states have, while they may have good intentions and pass the laws, they don’t have the money, and they don’t have the mechanism to raise the money,” Cornyn said. “And so this is, I think, the unique niche, that this federal legislation will fill by providing opportunities from grants from the Department of Justice for a training.”
The bipartisan effort was led by Cornyn and New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan, a Democrat.
The bill must be passed by the House, before it may be sent to the president’s desk for a signature or veto.
Cornyn’s Democratic challenger in the U.S. Senate race, MJ Hegar, hosted a virtual roundtable with Texas parents focusing on challenges families are facing in terms of education during the pandemic.