Missouri’s public and charter schools who teach sexual education must now include information about sexting, sexual predators and online predators. The addition was signed into law last week by Governor Jay Nixon.
The bill’s sponsor, St. Louis representative Genise Montecillo, hopes such education will make children safer from predators on the internet and cell phones.
“It’s just a huge door that’s been opened for them to get to our children in a much easier way, so hopefully we can get kids to understand that there is a risk,” Montecillo told Missourinet.
Missouri KidsFirst Deputy Director Emily van Schenkhof says such education could avert many abuses.
“Kids that have been kind of struggling to find community and connection, they go online looking for entertainment and looking for friendship, and these kids are vulnerable,” said van Schenkhof. “They simply don’t have the capacity at that point, both the emotional maturity and the knowledge, about how you talk to people safely online.”
The bill received broad support throughout the legislative process. Montecillo said that was due, in part, to taking this provision out of earlier efforts to pass it as part of larger, more sweeping bills. She says once this language was offered on its own, it drew support from a broad spectrum of both conservative and liberal interests.
“This was an issue that there’s not a lot of disagreement. We want to protect our kids from pedophiles,” said Montecillo.
Some critics, though, say it doesn’t do enough to change Missouri’s laws regarding sex education.