Representative Kathy Watson had the figurative gavel yesterday as she lead a session of the House Children and Youth Committee to consider House Bill 2641.
“It increases penalties and broadens provisions for mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse,” Watson said.
A mandated reporter is any adult who works with children in their profession. This includes school teachers, law enforcement, mental health professional professionals, and clergy, along with many other miscellaneous jobs.
The legislation comes on the heels of one of the most disturbing revelations in Pennsylvania this year in which more than 300 priests in the Keystone state were accused of sexually assaulting minors.
“Indeed, it is in response to one of the six recommendations of the statewide grand jury report on child sexual abuse within six Roman Catholic Diocese,” Watson explained.
According to the grand jury report, some priests testified they did not feel the law made them responsible to inform law enforcement about the abuse their peers were inflicting. If signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf, the legislation would clarify the law and put pressure on mandated reporters to report any person they suspect has abused a child and may strike again.
Sponsor of the bill Representative Todd Stephens (R-151) told the committee he was building the legislation on the research done by the grand jury.
“This was not a grand jury limited in scope. This is a grand jury that read countless paper documents and interviewed hundreds of witnesses over the course of two years” Stephens said. “I’m proud that this bill is supported by the law enforcement community here in Pennsylvania and look forward to it better protecting our children.”
Despite one vote against, the committee approved the bill. It now moves to the State House for vote.
The full hearing is available on the GOP livestream page.