Panel to target child sex abuse
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HARRISBURG -- Another panel, this time through state government, is being crafted in response to the Penn State University child sex abuse case.
The commission, which is expected to include lawmakers, agency officials and representatives of child-advocacy groups, will be tasked with searching for gaps in current state requirements for handling suspected child-abuse incidents.
While legislative leaders are still haggling over who should be included and are drafting the necessary resolutions to create that panel, Senate Democrats on Wednesday outlined a lengthy list of potential changes for it to consider.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said broader reporting requirements, better protections for those reporting incidents and more abuse identification training would help prevent cases like the one involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Mr. Sandusky was charged in early November with molesting eight children who were part of his nonprofit, The Second Mile. He was arrested again Wednesday, after the state attorney general's office announced additional charges after two more people came forward.
Among their other policy suggestions, Democratic senators urged additional background checks, the appointment of a children's ombudsman in state government and a Pennsylvania version of federal rules requiring colleges to disclose information about campus crime.
"There isn't any more valuable resource in the commonwealth than our children, so we have to make sure that legal responsibility does not stop short of what common sense and ordinary human experience require to protect them," said Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, who organized the caucus' recommendations.
The panel first must be created by passing resolutions in the House and Senate, which are expected to approve those measures next week, according to spokesmen for the respective majority caucuses.
Mr. Costa said lawmakers have been trying to work out who will be on the panel, with he and others urging it to be bipartisan. "Although that shouldn't be an issue, the fact of the matter is, it is," he said.
Calling it a "work in progress," he added that he hopes to see at least one of the committee chairmen that handle issues related to children and youth also included.
Once that panel is formed, it likely will convene in January and report its findings to the General Assembly within several months.
First Published December 8, 2011 12:00 am