Student Well-Being

Penn State Scandal Sparks Bill to Tighten Abuse-Reporting Law

By Bryan Toporek — November 11, 2011 2 min read
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The sexual abuse allegations that came out Saturday about a former Penn State defensive football coach are inspiring Pennsylvania legislators to reexamine the state’s abuse reporting law.

State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, announced his plan Wednesday to introduce legislation that would toughen Pennsylvania’s child-abuse-reporting law, requiring that school officials take the information to police.

Currently, state law only requires that anyone who knows about child abuse report it to the person in charge of the school.

More than 40 states require witnesses of child abuse to report what they saw to police immediately, without going through third parties, according to an an Associated Press review of all 50 states’ abuse-reporting laws.

“In light of the alleged child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University, it is clear that a loophole exists in our law,” Rep. Boyle said in a statement. “My legislation would close that loophole by requiring those who are aware of the abuse to report it to law enforcement authorities, rather than simply following an in-house chain of command.”

In the Penn State case, a graduate assistant named Mike McQueary reportedly witnessed former linebackers coach Jerry Sandusky assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State showers back in 2002. McQueary reported what he saw to head football coach Joe Paterno, Paterno notified athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, and they notified university president Graham Spanier.

None of them went to the police about Sandusky’s alleged abuse.

Sandusky was allowed around the program as recently as last week, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.

“The current system, coupled with the inaction of various individuals has failed the alleged victims in the Jerry Sandusky case,” Rep. Boyle said. “What’s even worse is that those who stood by and said nothing about the allegations have been cleared of any wrongdoing. My bill will hold people accountable for reporting such future instances to the proper authorities.”

Both Paterno and Spanier were fired late Wednesday by the school’s board of trustees.

There’s no word yet as to how seriously Rep. Boyle’s legislation will be considered, as he just announced his intention to introduce the bill two days ago.

However, given what’s unfolded at Penn State over the past week, it’s difficult to imagine much resistance from Pa. lawmakers on toughening the state’s abuse-reporting law. (Especially considering that a majority of other states have tougher laws already.)

Rep. Boyle has a master’s in education policy from Harvard University, and introduced a “Reach Scholarship” bill two years ago that would give all academically high-performing Pa. students the opportunity to attend college for free.

UPDATE (1:30 P.M.): Potential changes to Pennsylvania’s abuse-reporting law aren’t the only silver lining to come out of this tragic Penn State scandal.

A grassroots group of Penn State alumni banded together to form “Proud PSU for RAINN”, devoted to supporting the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. The group had already raised more than $100,000 for RAINN, as of 12 p.m. ET Friday.

The organizers hope to raise $557,000 for RAINN—one dollar for every Penn State alumnus.

The campaign was trending on Twitter in the Philadelphia area at 1 p.m. on Friday.


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.