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Senate Unanimously Approves Fontana Child Abuse Reporting Bill
On October 16, 2013
HARRISBURG, October 16, 2013 – The state Senate today unanimously approved state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana’s (D-Brookline) bill that would toughen child abuse reporting requirements in schools.
“I am pleased by this strong bipartisan vote in the Senate and will urge my state House colleagues to act on the bill as quickly as possible,” Fontana said.
“My legislation (Senate Bill 31) would help protect our kids and ensure their safety in schools. It does away with the separate reporting requirement for schools and mandates that suspected child abuse be reported within 24 hours to the proper authorities for investigation.”
First introduced in 2005, Fontana’s proposal (Senate Bill 31) 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 said he authored the bill after receiving a call from a distraught mother who 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.
“We need to be more vigilant about protecting our kids,” Fontana said. “I am hopeful that heightened public awareness and pressure will help advance many of the child protection bills under consideration in Harrisburg.”
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