The recent child sexual abuse trial of a Pittsburgh Public Schools police officer and the ongoing Sandusky scandal underscore the need to be more vigilant, provide stronger safeguards for our children and mandate clearer reporting procedures for school officials if they suspect child abuse.
This is why I have sponsored legislation to require school district authorities to report possible child abuse to authorities within 24 hours. Senate Bill 31 would remove the current confusing patchwork of reporting requirements for school officials and make all school officials mandated reporters of suspected child abuse.
Quick action and mandatory reporting of suspected abuse not only stop the abuse and the abuser but also preserve crucial evidence and eyewitness accounts. In both the Pittsburgh and Sandusky cases, there was little physical evidence and witnesses testified about incidents that happened more than a decade ago.
Had my mandatory reporting law been on the books, the details of the alleged incidents would have been fresh on the minds of witnesses and physical evidence could have been gathered immediately.
My bill, which will likely be voted on in the full Senate this fall, clearly and unequivocally imposes duties on school officials regarding the reporting of suspected child abuse. The message from my legislation: If you believe you have witnessed abuse, you are responsible to immediately report it to authorities. Period.
Our children deserve greater protection and our school officials must have the legal tools to ensure that our kids are safe.
WAYNE D. FONTANA
State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana, D-Brookline, represents the 42nd District.