HARRISBURG, June 12, 2012 – State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) announced today that his Senate Bill 549, which would add stronger requirements for school employees reporting suspected child abuse, has moved forward as an amendment to Senator Kim Ward’s (R-Westmoreland) Senate Bill 1413.

The Fontana proposal, offered as an amendment in the Senate Aging and Youth Committee today by Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), was unanimously approved. Fontana thanked Ward and Yudichak for generating bipartisan support for his amendment. The amended legislation now goes to the full Senate for consideration

Under current law, there is no requirement for a school employee to report suspected child abuse unless it is believed that the victim suffered serious bodily injury, sexual abuse or exploitation. “Serious bodily injury” is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or causes serious permanent disfiguration or protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ. The Fontana amendment would add the term “serious physical injury” as a reason for a school employee to also report abuse.

The Fontana amendment would also add provisions penalizing those who knowingly report false child abuse, who is notified of the abuse and investigative procedures. Senate Bill 549 passed the Senate Aging and Youth Committee in May, 2011, but has been stuck in the Senate Appropriations Committee since.

“What this amendment does is strengthen Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws,” Fontana said. “A version of this bill has been introduced for several years now and every day this isn’t in law, a child is suffering somewhere. Pennsylvania will now have clearer standards for reporting if this bill is passed by the General Assembly.

“In late May, the Task Force on Child Protection listened to testimony in favor of my Senate Bill 549. I want to thank Senator Ward for working with me and agreeing to include my amendment in her legislation. Obviously, we understand the need to get this legislation moving and Senate Bill 1413 is a good vehicle to move this proposal forward.”

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