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Amendments seek to extend fight against child abuse

With headlines about child abuse allegations coming from Penn State and Syracuse University, it’s no surprise to see legislation designed to insure that similar incidents don’t happen here.

Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, has introduced some of the first legislation of the 2012 General Assembly session, two bills that would amend Virginia Code § 63.2-1509, the statute that requires certain groups of professionals to make an official report to authorities if they “have reason to suspect that a child is an abused or neglected child.”

The bills would extend the statute to cover private sports teams and colleges/universities.

House Bill 3 would add “any athletic coach or director or other person employed by a private sports organization or team” to that list.

And Marshall’s HB 4 would amend that another section to list, “Any teacher, athletic coach or director, or other person employed in a public or private school, kindergarten or nursery school, or institution of higher education.”

The amending language is in italic in each instance above.

In the case of an athletic coach or director, the report would be made to the person in charge of the institution or his/her designee.

The statute provides immunity from civil or criminal liability so long as any report of abuse is not made in bad faith. And it has some teeth: If a person on the list suspects abuse but fails to make a report within 72 hours, he or she faces a fine up to $500. Subsequent failures to report also carry a fine, between $100 and $1,000.

- Paul Fletcher

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