WASHINGTON - Teachers, coaches, clergy and other adults who have a responsibility to children should be required to report cases of suspected abuse to police or local child protective agencies, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday as he introduced legislation aimed at setting minimum national reporting standards.
The Pennsylvania Democrat's bill follows the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal in which former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of molesting several boys and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Under the bill, states must require that adults with a professional responsibility to children - teachers, coaches, clergy and day care providers, among others - make the reports to authorities. States would otherwise lose federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act funding.
In Sandusky's case, law enforcement officials were not notified after a Penn State graduate assistant said he saw Sandusky attack a child in the team showers in 2002. The graduate assistant reported it to coach Joe Paterno, who passed along the information to Penn State administrators. Complaints publicly came to light years later after a high school student made separate allegations of abuse.
Casey introduced a similar bill in Congress in 2011, but it failed to gain traction due in part to a more stringent standard that required all adults who saw suspected abuse or neglect to notify authorities. He said the latest bill places the legal obligation on those with the most professional responsibility to children.
"Years after the indictment of Jerry Sandusky, there are still glaring gaps in our child abuse reporting laws that must be addressed," Casey said. "This legislation is a commonsense approach that will require those with a professional responsibility to children to report suspected child abuse to the appropriate state authorities, and not just their superiors."
The bill, which has the support of at least 20 child advocacy groups, also would help states conduct child abuse educational campaigns and would evaluate their results.