Hempfield Lawmaker’s Bill Would Broaden Abuse-report Duties

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

University officials at Penn State and statewide would be legally required to report suspected child abuse under a proposal to be introduced by state Sen. Kim Ward.

Ward, a Republican from Hempfield, said she was motivated to add college and university employees to the list of people required to report suspected abuse after allegations surfaced that retired Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abused eight boys and that university officials failed to report the allegations to police.

Under current law, K-12 teachers, health care workers and others who work with children are required to report suspected child abuse to the state by phone and in writing. Ward said anyone employed by a university — from the president on down — would join the list of mandated reporters.

“I just think that makes perfect sense,” Ward said. “I think, morally, you shouldn’t even need a law. It appalls me that people in authority who could have helped … saw and knew things and kept it all within their little family. They never went outside the circle of Penn State.”

Ward said she also plans to introduce a resolution today creating a commission to examine a number of facets of the child welfare system as well as legislation that would increase the penalty for failing to report suspected abuse.

“Anything you can do to make it clear to people as to who is required to report child abuse … the better,” said Tina Phillips, director of training for the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, a group that trains mandated reporters to recognize signs of abuse and how to report it.

State lawmakers are considering a number of measures aimed at changing state child welfare laws, including one by state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, that would add “serious physical injury” to the list of types of child abuse that must be reported to the state.

The plan would allow the state to disclose proven cases of abuse to an individual’s employer if he or she works with children.

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