The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

June 20, 2013

State House approves three bills addressing child abuse

HARRISBURG — Three bills to change how child abuse investigations are handled were closer to becoming law Thursday following favorable votes in the state House of Representatives.

The House voted overwhelmingly to send the Senate the proposals, which are among the legislation under consideration since the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal raised concerns about the adequacy of state laws to protect children.

One bill would establish procedures to report child abuse online or by email and require those who must report suspected abuse to inform their supervisors and call the ChildLine hotline. It passed 184-6 after one member said he was concerned about how it might affect families that discipline their children with corporal punishment.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Children and Youth Committee Chairwoman Kathy Watson, R-Bucks, said, “There is no intent in the child protection package, this bill or any other, to interfere with what society calls acceptable parental action and control.”

Rep. Scott Petri, R-Bucks, told members that “appropriate discipline is still allowed and will be allowed when these bills get signed into law.”

The second bill would require determinations of child abuse to be approved by county child protective services administrators and the agency’s lawyer. The third would broaden how school personnel must handle abuse cases. Both measures passed unanimously.

Sandusky, who was an assistant under former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, was convicted a year ago of dozens of counts of child sexual abuse. He is serving a lengthy state prison sentence but maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but denying he molested them. His case, which involves allegations that university officials failed to properly report claims of abuse, has prompted lawmakers to review the state’s child abuse laws.

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