November 23, 2011

Iowa Child Sex Abuse Laws Could See Changes

11-23-2011 Iowa:

MASON CITY, IA - Iowa's child sex abuse laws could be expanding this legislative session.

Recent events at Penn State University are causing state leaders to reconsider everything from who is considered a mandatory reporter to the steps they take to alert officials.

Last year the Iowa Legislature created a task force charged with finding ways to better protect children from sexual abuse. Now that task force is coming up with some changes they hope lawmakers will implement this session.

“We always wait until something bad happens to a child,” said Duffy Weitzel.

Weitzel is a child advocate and says the state's laws need adjusting.

“There's a lot of loopholes in the laws and we need to protect our children by going back and amending some of the old law,” said Weitzel.

That's what the Iowa Child Sex Abuse Prevention Task Force hopes to do. The group could recommend changes that would add college officials to the list of those required to report abuse, as well as require school districts to report abuse by teachers to authorities beyond the state licensing board.

“Laws always need to be reviewed and that's something that hopefully our legislative people will go and talk to the people in the field and they can learn firsthand those loopholes that are out there,” said Weitzel.

“The Penn State incident certainly reinforces the need to make sure mandatory reporters meet their legal obligations and put the safety of children first,” said Steve Scott, task force chairman.

Scott says compared to other states Iowa's child abuse laws are stricter than most, but there's always room for improvement.

“Right now if someone is running a summer camp there might not be a responsibility to report or some other areas that are somewhat related to the problems at Penn State,” said Scott.

Above all, Scott hopes the task force's actions make reporting child abuse a core moral conviction.

“The responsibility they have is to the child and it's not to concerns over what the fallout might be for themselves or for somebody else or the reputation of their institution,” said Scott.

Something Weitzel agrees with.

“Let the people who do the investigations make that judgment then you've done everything you can possibly do and that is always a good feeling,” said Weitzel.

The task force will meet again in December to finalize their recommendations before presenting them to lawmakers in January. ..Source.. by

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