Penn State Case Spurs Movement for New Child Abuse Reporting Laws

By: - November 15, 2011 12:00 am

Lawmakers in several states are reacting to the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State by proposing new legislation that would create stricter child abuse reporting requirements.

Pennsylvania which is still reeling amid allegations that a former Penn State football coach sexually molested at least eight boys over a 15-year span and that university officials covered up the crimes — could change its child abuse reporting law before the end of the year, Governor Tom Corbett said over the weekend .

The new version of the law likely would require those who learn of child abuse to report the crime directly to police, The Washington Post reported . Penn State officials have been broadly criticized for allegedly reporting instances of abuse only to their superiors at the university, rather than to law enforcement.

In New York, two state lawmakers are reacting to the Penn State case by calling for the addition of university coaches and administrators to the list of people currently required to report child abuse to the police, The Times Union of Albany reported . New York, the paper noted, already requires a “long list of professionals” to report physical or sexual abuse of a child, and the two lawmakers say the omission of university coaches and administrators is a “dangerous loophole.”

In Maryland, a state senator is considering introducing legislation next year that would create criminal penalties for those who are required to report suspected child abuse but fail to do so, The Washington Times reported . “Current state law requires Maryland educators, health practitioners, human-service workers and police officers to report suspected child abuse to police or a local social-services department,” the paper reported, noting that violators now face a fine but not criminal charges.

The Penn State scandal marks the second time in four months that state lawmakers around the country are responding to a high-profile case by vowing to create stricter reporting requirements for possible crimes against children.

As Stateline

noted in July , legislators from Alabama to Maryland have called for tougher criminal penalties for failing to reporting a missing child. The push came after the trial of Casey Anthony, a Florida mother who was found not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter. No one had reported Anthony’s daughter missing for more than a month after her disappearance.

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