Monday, June 11, 2012

Thirty states seek to expand mandatory reporting laws

Penn State sex abuse scandal behind rapid increase in laws

In the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, about 105 bills on the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect have been introduced in 2012 legislative sessions in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Legislation has since been enacted in 10 of those states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

According to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) Oregon, West Virginia, Virginia, and South Dakota are among states that expanded their list of professions that are mandatory reporters, while Indiana and Iowa are requiring schools to develop new policies and reporting procedures for responding to suspected child abuse.

Indiana, also in response to the Penn State sex abuse scandal, passed legislation that requires the state to work with child sexual abuse experts to develop education materials, response policies, and reporting procedures on child sexual abuse, reported CSM. A new Iowa law requires schools to implement policy for employees in contact with children to report suspected physical or sexual abuse.

Also as a direct result of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, Florida has passed what is now the toughest mandatory reporting legislation in the country: Failure to report suspected child abuse is a felony, and universities would be fined $1 million and stripped of state funding for two years if officials don't report child abuse. According to CSM, the law applies to everyone — from university coaching staff to elementary school teachers to students.

Forty-eight states require at least some professionals to immediately report knowledge or suspicion of child sexual abuse to some authority, according to the NCSL. The list of professionals varies by state and can include teachers, school nurses, doctors, social workers, police, day care workers, coaches and camp counselors, reported the CSM.

Eighteen states have laws that require mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse by all adults. Many of those states have no specific sanctions for those who fail to comply with such laws, while others have penalties but they are not enforced unless a case is particularly heinous or deadly.

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