Penn State Scandal Shines Light on Laws for Reporting Abuse
Requirements vary across the states
The sex-abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University, which last month led to the firing of storied football coach Joe Paterno and other prominent university officials who did not report the alleged crimes to law enforcement, raises fresh questions about the legal and moral responsibilities of K-12 personnel who are especially likely to be in a position to detect physical or sexual abuse of a child.
Experts say most states have clear laws requiring K-12 teachers and other school employees to swiftly and directly report suspicions of abuse to police or child-protection authorities, but there are complex reasons why these "mandatory reporters" may fail to take action.
"I think one of the major impediments to people reporting their suspicions is that they think they have to have more evidence that abuse is occurring," said Robert J. Shoop , the director of the Cargill Center for Ethical Leadership at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kan., and the author of several books on sex abuse and sexual misconduct. "But that's not the case with these laws. If you think abuse could be happening, that's when...
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