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Will Sex Abuse Laws Change After Penn State?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on January 30, 2012 5:01 AM

State lawmakers are heading back to work this month, and many of them are considering ways to prevent another Penn State.

Mandatory reporting laws are the issue du jour this session, and at least 12 states have already drafted legislation. If passed, those bills would extend coverage to athletic coaches, licensing boards, camp counselors and employers.

In some jurisdictions, everyone will become a mandatory reporter.

The proposed bills reflect public outrage at Penn State's failure to report Jerry Sandusky to police. Many believe the university, and Joe Paterno, should have reported the abuse allegations instead of conducting an internal investigation. Results may have been quicker, and children could have been saved.

Whether or not that is true is irrelevant. Legislators believe -- and some would say correctly -- that mandatory reporting laws should expand. If an adult comes into contact with a child on a regular basis, that adult should be legally bound to report any form of abuse.

Forty-eight states currently have mandatory reporting laws, according to the Associated Press. Those laws typically cover teachers, doctors, social workers, peace officers and emergency responders. Some states include daycare workers and voluntary athletic coaches.

Eighteen states require every adult to report suspected child abuse.

In addition to mandatory reporting laws, legislators are taking a closer look at criminal and civil statutes of limitations, explains the Associated Press. In some states, Jerry Sandusky's alleged victims wouldn't be able to sue for civil damages, or press criminal charges.

Perhaps this will be the real legacy of Penn State: mandatory reporting laws and longer statutes of limitations.

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