Safe Haven law, sexting warnings may be taught in NJ
Lawmakers are advancing a pair of bills requiring lessons on sexting and the state’s Safe Haven Infant Protection Act to be added to New Jersey schools’ curriculum standards.
The requirement to teach high-school students about the Safe Haven law, which designates locations such as police and fire departments where newborns can be safely abandoned by overwhelmed parents, was first proposed in 2004 but hadn’t gotten a legislative hearing until Monday.
In the past month, four babies were found abandoned in locations not designated as safe locations: along the PATH tracks in Jersey City, in front of homes in Trenton and Highland Park, and in a vacant building in Trenton.
“The news of the abandoned babies recently, two of whom were found dead, has rightly evoked feelings of sadness for we know there are so many individuals and couples who want these babies and would be glad to adopt them,” said Mary Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life.
Tasy was on a Safe Haven Task Force in 2007 that made a series of recommendations that weren’t adopted, including the requirement that high-school students be made aware of the law.
“Although it has taken 11 years to get to this point, this legislation is clearly a step in the right direction,” Tasy said.
The Senate Education Committee unanimously endorsed the requirement, bill S1126, Monday.
It did the same, as well, for a bill already approved in February by the Assembly (A2189/S2092) that would require instruction for middle-schools students on the social, emotional and legal dangers of sending sexually explicit images through electronic means, better known as sexting.
“Sexting is a phenomenon with development, legal and technological aspects lingering in the hallways of our schools every day,” said Jennie Lamon of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.
Citing data from uKnowKids, a company that helps parents with digital safety issues, Lamon said 11 percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 16 have sent nude photos of themselves or sexted while nude; 39 percent of all teens have sent a sext; and 49 percent have received a sexually suggestive message.
“Because of the viral power of a smartphone camera, one impulsive decision can wind up forever changing lives,” Lamon said.
“In a technological world where anything can be copied, sent, posted and seen by huge audiences, there’s no such thing as being able to control information,” Lamon said. “Content goes viral through sharing, and sharing gives your content a whole new audience of people. That means, unfortunately for our young people, adolescent angst can be multiplied a thousand-fold in just a few hours.”
Depending on how soon the bills are enacted into law, if ever, they could take effect for the 2018-19 school year.