November 28, 2011

Marshall's proposed law targets child abuse

11-28-2011 Virginia:

The trauma and tragedy of the child sex-abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University has inspired a Virginia lawmaker to take legislative action.

School coaches and athletic directors would be required to report child abuse or neglect to Virginia authorities under legislation proposed by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William.

The legislation, detailed in House Bill 4, was filed by Marshall on Monday. If passed by the legislature and signed into law, it would apply to all public and private schools in the commonwealth, as well as “institutions of higher education.”

A separate bill filed by Marshall, House Bill 3, would include coaches and directors of private sports organizations and teams as among those required to report abuse.

Currently, Virginia law requires a number of professionals to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Social Services, including: doctors, nurses, social workers, probation officers, child-care workers, mental-health professionals, police officers, emergency services workers and public assistance workers.

The law also requires teachers and “any other person employed in a public or private school, kindergarten or nursery school” to report suspected abuse or neglect. But Marshall said that in light of the Penn State scandal, he felt it necessary to add to the law a specific reference to coaches and athletic directors and expand it to cover colleges and universities.

“You want unconditional clarity in there — to let the public know in no uncertain terms that what is a moral obligation is also a legal obligation,” Marshall said in an interview.

This month, Penn State and its football program were rocked by the indictment of its former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sex abuse. Over 15 years, Sandusky is accused of abusing eight boys, including one assault in 2002 that was not brought to the attention of police despite evidence that university officials were aware of an accusation.

Athletic Director Tim Curley has been charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to notify police. Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 football history, had been told of the 2002 incident but apparently did not notify authorities, was fired.

“Most people were shocked to learn that the Pennsylvania law was unclear on the duty imposed on coaches in such situations,” Marshall said. “Pennsylvania is toughening its state laws, and Virginia needs to do the same.”

Under Marshall’s legislation, failure to report an instance of abuse within 72 hours would be subject to a fine of up to $500 and fines of up to $1,000 for any subsequent violations. ..Source.. by Jim Nolan

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