The Longer We Wait, the Worse it Gets

Mandated reporting of child abuse must be extended to schools

By Rep. David Maloney (R-Berks),
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

During my short time in public service, we have seen some heart-wrenching events in our nation with respect to child welfare.

We have seen the child sex abuse scandals within the church and the Jerry Sandusky Penn State scandal.  Right now in Pittsburgh, a former school police officer is on trial for allegedly abusing several school children over a long period of time.

Closer to home, and more recently, the Pottstown Mercury headlines reveal despicable stories about the treatment of children that make people shake their heads in wonder – “Ex-Chesco Prison Employee Faces New Sex Abuse Charges,” and “Camp Leader Charged With Covering Up Sex Assault.”

Having been a member of a local school board, and being a PIAA official, I have long been concerned about the discrepancies in state law about the requirements to report suspected child abuse with respect to professional workplaces versus schools.  As a member of the House Children and Youth Committee, these last two stories, which both appeared in the Mercury on Aug. 1, are exactly why I introduced House Bill 434.

One of the biggest problems we face, as the “ex-chesco prison employee” and “camp leader charged” stories reveal, is that sexual predators seek out our schools and camps in order to place themselves closer to their victims.  Yet, the child abuse reporting requirements for those in an education setting are less stringent than the requirements in other professional settings.

Under current law, school employees accused of abusing students are held to a lower standard than parents, child care workers and other accused perpetrators. In other words, some conduct that would constitute abuse by a parent does not constitute abuse when committed by a school employee.  Since there is no excuse to hold any group to a lower standard when it comes to abusing a child, my legislation would remove this loophole for school employees who abuse students, precisely as recommended by the Task Force on Child Protection the General Assembly created last year.

In addition, my legislation expands the definition of a school employee, so that any employees not governed by the School Code will also be subject to background clearance requirements, including state and federal criminal history, as other school employees who work with children currently are.  It also requires both types of school employees to undergo the Department of Public Welfare’s child abuse clearance.

Most importantly, is that the House’s package of child protection legislation has been carefully designed and vetted so that they work together as a package to provide greater protection and a swifter response for abused and neglected children in Pennsylvania.  That is because as soon as the 2013-14 legislative session began, we held hearings and met with the task force to write these bills with the benefit of their expertise on the matter.

To date, the House has passed and sent to the Senate more than a dozen pieces of legislation based on the task force’s recommendations.  As the headlines in our daily newspapers demonstrate, the longer we wait to act, the worse it gets for our children.

Representative David Maloney
130th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact:  Charles Lardner
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