As the much-publicized trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky gets underway, child abuse continues to be a top concern as state lawmakers consider legislation that would require training for mandated reporters among school professionals. Senate Bill 449 was unanimously passed by the upper chamber in the fall and is currently awaiting action in the House.
Tina Phillips, Director of Training for the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA), said mandated reporters must notify authorities. "They are required by law to report when they have reasonable cause to suspect that one of the kids with whom they work is a victim of child abuse," Phillips said.
The PFSA is supporting the legislation which would make training mandatory for school personnel including all teachers and administrators. The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) said the majority of abuse reports came from schools.
Phillips said the training would cover a variety of topics, just as it always has in the past. "The child welfare process in Pennsylvania, what does that system look like? What are the limitations on that system? What can a mandated reporter expect once they make a report of suspected abuse? The reporting process itself, who do they call? When do they call? What kind of paperwork they need to fill out?" Phillips said.
According the DPW, in 2011 there were 24,378 suspected cases of abuse and 3,408 substantiated cases. 34 children died as a result of abuse and there were 41 cases of near-fatal abuse. 78% of the suspected and substantiated cases were submitted by mandated reporters.
Phillips added the training would not be very time consuming. "They are required to receive a certain number of hours of continuing education, and all this would do would be require that three of those hours once every five years would be recognizing and reporting child abuse," Phillips said.
Last year the PFSA provided training to 8,100 mandated reporters throughout the state.
Read a story from out content partner Public Source outlining one case where a coach was doing the abusing. The incident happened before mandatory reporting laws were in place but it's a story that continues to be echoed today.