New Missouri bill forces some schools to teach dangers of online predators

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - With near unanimous bi-partisan support, the state of Missouri is hoping it’s taking one giant leap towards keeping your children safe.

Governor Jay Nixon signed HB 501 on July 14, 2015, and the bill went into effect on August 28, 2015. The new measure now mandates that all public schools in Missouri that teach sex education must also teach the dangers of online predators.

The bill is aimed at keeping kids safe from anything inappropriate online, which includes bullying.

HB 501 reads in part: 

"This bill requires any course materials and instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases in a public or charter school to teach students about the dangers of sexual predators, including on-line predators. Pupils must be taught how to behave responsibly and remain safe on the internet and the importance of having open communication with responsible adults and reporting any inappropriate situation, activity, or abuse. Any course materials and instruction must also teach pupils about the consequences, both personal and legal, of inappropriate text messaging, even among friends."

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 13 million youth are bulled each year, and nearly 160,000 kids stay home from school each day to avoid being bullied. Add the growing concern over online sexual predation and lawmakers feel this bill is long overdue.

MORE: Find online safety resources via #KCSafeOnline

Missouri Representative (D) Genise Montecillo authored the bill.

"Missouri needs this because we know it's an issue for students. Representative Allen has been, unfortunately for years, trying to get enacted a bullying bill. We know it's a problem. We know these situations are arise,” said Montecillo during a phone interview.

Click here to read HB 501

Representative Montecillo, along with several other professionals, will speak in Kansas City, Kan., Wednesday at the Children’s Campus of Kansas City from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. regarding sexual predation and cyber bullying. The free educational program will be hosted by the Metro KC Youth Collaborative, a component of the Mother and Child Health Coalition.

Editor's note: The original story stated Gov. Nixon signed the bill on August 28. It has been updated that the bill was signed July 14 and went into effect August 28. 

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Josh Helmuth can be reached at josh.helmuth@kshb.com.

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