Pennsylvania State Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) says that if a bill he is sponsoring was in place, the alleged abuse seen at Penn State would have been stopped.
"The bill is intended to lower the threshold for when suspected child abuse by a school employee must be reported and investigated," said Fontana. "The bill also allows information from a report to be provided to a person's employer if it relates to the employee's suitability in the workplace."
At the same time, the measure removes separate reporting procedures for school employees and would require that reports be made in the same way regardless of who the suspected perpetrator is or what the offense is. Fontana said that the goal is to ensure that the child's welfare is the first priority.
Senator Fontana said that his legislation would have made a difference in the Penn State University alleged child abuse case had it been the law in 2002. "If Senate Bill 549 were law, the graduate assistant's responsibility would have been to contact police and/or child protective services immediately to report what he had seen," said Fontana.
The bill also would strengthen the immunity provisions for those individuals making reports by providing both civil and criminal immunity if the person participates in good faith in making a report, cooperates with an investigation, testifies in a proceeding, or refers a report to law enforcement.
While speaking on the Senate Floor, Senator Fontana said that his legislation is not a knee-jerk reaction to what occurred at Penn State. He said that it is a well thought out work product that has been developed and improved over the last six and a half years. Senate Bill 549 was approved by the Senate Aging & Youth Committee last May and was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee in June for consideration.
While the bill works its way through the system, Fontana is calling on all Pennsylvanians "to no longer be silent." He urged anyone who knows of a child being abused or suspects that a child is being abused to not hesitate to call 9-1-1 or the Department of Public Welfare's Child Protective Services at 1-800-932-0313.