Penn State Abuse Scandal a Catalyst for Change

Pennsylvania’s nickname is the “Keystone State,” and it appears to be living up to that name with the legal hullabaloo that has followed the Penn State sex abuse scandal.

Both federal and state laws are under scrutiny, and lawmakers are calling for reform to both.

Federal law provides a framework for abuse reporting, but state laws are all different.  One recent article called Pennsylvania sex laws “the worst” in the country. Pennsylvania lawmakers (and others) are calling for reform to state laws. 

A key issue likely to be debated in state legislatures is whether reports should go straight to police, and whether new laws are needed to shore up vague guidelines and polices about child safety on campus.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett …said that within the next few weeks, state lawmakers would introduce bills to explicitly outline educators’ responsibilities if they witness or suspect abuse.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see if a bill was passed … between now and the end of this year,” Corbett told NBC’s Meet the Press.

Another issue under examination is the Pennsylvania statute of limitations for sexual offenses (18 Pa.C.S.A. 3101 et seq ) in civil (42 Pa.C.S.A. 5533(b)(2) ) and criminal (42 Pa.C.S.A. 5552(b)(1) ) suits.

The Penn State case is pressing other states to tighten abuse laws as well. In New York, legislators are about to introduce the College Coaches and Professionals Reporting Act which will require coaches, administrators and all other education employees to report abuse. The scandal has spurred review of the state laws in Connecticut, Iowa, and others.   

On the federal side of things, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced a Bill to Strengthen Child Protection Laws yesterday:

The Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid (Speak Up) Act of 2011 [S. 1877] would require all states to pass and enforce a law requiring all adults to report instances of known or suspected child abuse in order for states to receive funding through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the federal statute focused on child abuse and neglect prevention and response. 

If you’re interested in seeing what happens with this (or any other) bill, you can easily track legislation through or