SACRAMENTO (AP) — In California's first legislative response to the Penn State sex abuse scandal, the state Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would require all higher education employees to report suspected instances of child sexual abuse.
Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, who authored the bill, said child sex abuse charges against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky showed the need for the legislation. AB1434 passed 69-0 and now moves to the Senate.
"The bill is a pretty basic response to Sandusky and how important it is for us not to merely rely on moral obligation, but rather put in some laws — statutory obligation to university and college employees," Feuer said.
Sandusky, 68, is charged with sexually abusing several boys both on the Penn State campus and elsewhere. He has denied the allegations. Two school officials were charged with failing to properly report abuse allegations.
Under California law, professionals classified as mandated reporters — including public school teachers, teacher's aides, doctors and others whose duties require supervision of children — must contact law enforcement when they believe that a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect. Failure to do so is punishable by up to six months of jail time and a fine of to $1,000.
Feuer's bill would add as mandated reporters all employees of a public or private higher education institution, requiring them to report child abuse or neglect that occurs on the institution's premises or at an official program or activity conducted by the institution.
Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, R-Fresno, said while she supported the bill, she noted there's a need to train new mandated reporters.
"I do have a concern that as we increase the number of mandated reporters we recognize that there are skills necessary to recognize more subtle cases of child neglect, and that we consider those in our education," Halderman said.
The Assembly is also expected to vote on a bill that would require athletic coaches at schools and youth groups to report suspected child abuse. States are debating similar laws across the country.
At least 30 states are considering mandatory reporting legislation this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine states have already enacted such laws.