HARRISBURG, August 29, 2012 – State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Brookline) today called on Senate leadership to move legislation forward that would strengthen Pennsylvania’s child abuse reporting laws.

“Every day that my Senate Bill 549 (SB 549) isn’t law is another day more children are at risk,” Fontana said. “According to recent reports, in 1999, a Pittsburgh Public School police officer was accused of sexually abusing a student on school grounds and the incident was not reported to law enforcement. This news is both disturbing and tragic.”

“There is legislation I have authored sitting before the Senate Appropriations Committee that would require school district authorities to report these types of incidents to law enforcement immediately. How many more occurrences of abuse have to take place before we strengthen the law to protect innocent children?”

In February 2011, Fontana introduced Senate Bill 549 which amends the Child Protective Services Law to address suspected abuse by school employees by lowering the threshold for when suspected child abuse by a school employee must be reported and investigated. It requires school officials to notify law enforcement of alleged sexual abuse or exploitation of a child within 24 hours by telephone and in writing. In June 2012, language from Fontana’s bill was also amended into Senate Bill 1413 (SB 1413) which is before the Senate Aging & Youth Committee.

“I first introduced legislation strengthening child abuse laws in September 2005, working with stakeholders to continually improve the bill. The tragic situation that occurred at Penn State has brought the need to strengthen child abuse laws to the forefront, but action on this legislation is long overdue. I urge Senate leadership to move this legislation forward so we can better protect our children from abuse.”

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