HARRISBURG, March 18, 2013 – Speaking at a Capitol news conference today, State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Brookline) said his bill that would strengthen child abuse reporting laws is being touted under a legislative package endorsed by the bipartisan Task Force on Child Protection.

“I publicly thank the task force for largely underscoring my proposal in its report,” Fontana said. “We have a public and ethical responsibility to protect our children and ensure their safety in our schools. It doesn’t matter who is suspected of abuse. Each case should be handled the same.”

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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 mandates that the incident be reported directly to Childline or the police. It covers all students, from kindergarten through college.

The Brookline lawmaker said his legislation was initially prompted when a local woman called him and said her son had been taken 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.

The legislative Task Force on Child protection has members comprising both political parties from both the Senate and House of Representatives. It 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.

The Fontana bill is currently being considered in the Senate Education Committee. He said the support of the bipartisan task force coupled with a renewed legislative focus and vigilance following the Sandusky scandal would help propel his bill toward full Senate consideration and possible enactment.

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