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Oregon bill would require coaches to report abuse February 3, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

In the wake of a child sex abuse scandal that rocked Penn State University, lawmakers in Oregon are considering a new requirement for coaches and other university employees to report child abuse to authorities.

The proposal also would apply to employees or volunteers of church groups, summer camps, scout troops and most other organizations that work with youth. They would be subject to the same abuse reporting requirements that apply to teachers, doctors and law enforcement officers.

Proponents hope the bill would encourage more reporting of child abuse and reduce the number of abuse-related deaths.

“They’re not dying because we’re not doing everything we can to save them. They’re dying because nobody told,” Tonia Hunt, director of The Children’s Center in Clackamas County, told the House Education Committee Thursday. Hunt’s organization works with victims of child abuse.

Opponents worry that the measure, House Bill 4016, is too broad and might expand liability for schools and youth organizations.

It’s one of several bills under consideration aimed at protecting potential victims of child abuse.

House Bill 4048 would allow prosecutors to bring felony charges against parents and guardians who fail to promptly report the death or disappearance of a child if the parent could reasonably suspect criminal activity. The measure was introduced in response to the trial of Casey Anthony, a Florida mother acquitted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony, who was missing for a month before authorities were notified.

House Bill 4100 would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases

The proposal to expand required reporting of child abuse arose primarily from allegations that volunteer Boy Scout leaders abused children in Oregon, said Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis. Those cases have been highlighted by recent lawsuits in several Northwest states.

The Penn State abuse scandal led to a review of Oregon higher education policies, which revealed that employees aren’t required to report abuse, Gelser said. Penn State football coaches and administrators faced accusations that they didn’t do enough to tell authorities about alleged abuse by retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

At least 12 states are considering mandatory reporting legislation this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and more are expected to craft bills as their sessions get into full swing.

Mandatory abuse reporters are required to tell police or the state Department of Human Services when they suspect a child has been abused, even if they learn of the abuse outside of work.

Opponents of the bill worry that it would discourage people from volunteering for organizations that work with youth or expose those organizations to lawsuits if they fail to report abuse that’s unrelated to the organization.

“This is a complex issue, and regular people who volunteer, they’re not going to be sure what exactly their duty is,” said Roger Williams, legislative director of the Oregon Christian Home Education Network. “And there’s going to be a chilling effect on volunteerism in the state of Oregon.”

Lobbyists for organizations representing school administrators and school board members said they were not concerned about increased liability and did not think it would increase their training costs. The bill’s proponents say they intend for it to apply only to volunteers given direct care and control of children, not parents who volunteer to read to a class or chaperone a school dance.

The Oregon University System has not taken a position on the bill but expects all employees and staff to report wrongdoing, spokeswoman Di Saunders said.



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