HARRISBURG, June 11, 2013 – The state Senate Education Committee today unanimously approved state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana’s (D-Brookline) bill that would toughen child abuse reporting requirements in schools

“I am heartened and encouraged by this strong bipartisan vote and look forward to the full Senate acting on the bill,” Fontana said.

“The bill (Senate Bill 31) would take significant strides in protecting our children and ensuring their safety in schools. It doesn’t matter who is suspected of abuse. Each case should be handled the same.”

First introduced in 2005, Fontana’s proposal (Senate Bill 31) would require school district authorities to report possible child abuse to law enforcement within 24 hours. The measure would remove the different reporting requirement for school employees and put them on the same level as other mandated reporters. The Fontana measure requires that an incident be reported directly to Childline or the police. It covers all students, from kindergarten through college.

The Brookline lawmaker noted that his bill was inspired by a distraught mother who called him and said her son had been transported from school to an emergency room. The child had bleeding brush burns, choke marks around his neck and broken blood vessels in his face — all caused by a teacher. Fontana said that even though the mother, emergency room doctor and social worker all tried reporting the incident to Childline, they were told that the law prevented investigation because the injuries were not deemed serious enough.

In March, the bipartisan, bicameral Legislative Task Force on Child Protection included Fontana’s proposal in its package of recommended bills. The task force was created by the General Assembly to thoroughly review state laws and procedures governing child protection and the reporting of child abuse. It issued a report last year that called for numerous changes to Pennsylvania’s laws.

“Following the Sandusky scandal, the public is rightfully more vigilant about taking steps to protect children,” Fontana said. “I am confident this renewed public awareness and pressure will help my bill reach enactment.”

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