HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) today called for swift adoption of a measure to require school personnel in Pennsylvania to undergo periodic training in recognizing and reporting child abuse.
"The child sex abuse scandal at Penn State has thrust child abuse into the spotlight in a dramatic and heartbreaking manner," PFSA Executive Director Angela Liddle said. "By finishing the passage of this measure in the legislature and asking the governor to sign it immediately, we can ensure that some kind of positive legacy will emerge from this otherwise horrific situation."
The state Senate passed Senate Bill 449 by a vote of 50-0 vote in mid-October. Liddle said it's time to quickly move ahead with passage in the House of Representatives, put the bill on the governor's desk, and then get on with the job of making sure nothing like this happens again anywhere in Pennsylvania.
A former assistant football coach at Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with sexually molesting underage boys, and two university administrators have been accused of failing to report what they knew about the incidents.
Liddle characterized the implications of failing to report as "chilling." She said, "The implications go beyond a perpetrator possibly being allowed to go unpunished, although that's horrible enough in its own right. Worse—far worse—'failure to report' suggests the victimization of others that could have been prevented. It suggests wounds and suffering that could have been avoided if only someone had done his or her duty … by stepping up and reporting."
The grand jury report on the Penn State incidents released by Pennsylvania's attorney general cited several alleged incidents of sexual abuse. One of them, which took place in 2000 in the shower room of the university football facility, was said to have been witnessed by a school janitor. The report said the janitor's supervisor "told him to whom he should report the incident, if he chose to report it." No report was ever made.
Liddle pointed out that "if that janitor had received training, he might have understood what he witnessed for what it was—a potential crime—and might have known what to do, how to report it, and might have had the confidence to do so."
The investigation of Sandusky that led to the current charges began in 2008 when an assistant principal at a Clinton County high school where Sandusky was serving as a volunteer coach became aware of allegations that Sandusky had sexually abused a student there and, according to the grand jury report, "the matter was reported to the authorities as mandated by law."
Liddle said, "That's the way the system is supposed to work, but it's clear from the grand jury report in this case that for many years it failed to work."
In urging swift legislative action, Liddle added, "It's too late for the victims who have already been harmed. It's not too late to prevent more children from becoming victims."
If the legislation is passed by House and signed into law by the governor, it will direct the state Department of Public Welfare, in consultation with the state Department of Education, to set up a child abuse recognition and reporting program.
Teachers and others employed by or under contract to schools would be required to undergo a minimum of three hours of training every five years. In addition to teachers, school-employed social workers, guidance counselors, school nurses, and administrators would be covered.
Liddle said school personnel have a legal duty to report suspicions of abuse but have never been required to receive training.
She said training is essential for school personnel to understand their responsibilities, what constitutes abuse, what the signs of abuse are, and what steps and procedures should be followed to report it.
It has been estimated that only 15 percent of school districts in Pennsylvania have had such training on a voluntary basis.
The proposed law would apply to public school districts, intermediate units, vocational-technical schools, charter schools, and private schools.
PFSA is a nonprofit organization that provides training in recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect through schools, early childhood education centers, religious institutions, and social service agencies. For more information, visit the PFSA Web site at www.pa-fsa.org.
Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance
Protecting children from abuse
Training for professionals
Support for families
Education for communities
Visit the PFSA website at www.pa-fsa.org
SOURCE PA Family Support Alliance