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Pennsylvania lawmakers approve child protection bills

Public shock and outcry over recent sex abuse cases in Pennsylvania has led lawmakers to take more steps to protect children. In particular, three bills were overwhelmingly passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and those pieces of legislation will now have to be weighed against and perhaps combined with similar measures in the Senate.

In the wake of the horrors described in the Jerry Sandusky trial, a special task force was created to analyze the effectiveness of Pennsylvania laws regarding sex abuse. The recently passed legislation was based on recommendations from that task force.

One of the bills would establish a dual-reporting system for employees and organization members who suspect child abuse. Under House Bill 430, people will have to report a suspicion of child abuse to Pennsylvania's Childline system as well as to their supervisors. The aim of the legislation is to prevent the kind of cover-up and deception that were alleged in the Sandusky abuse case and the many clergy abuse cases.

The bill also provides that Childline workers will be able to use email or other electronic communication to alert authorities of child abuse suspicions.

Another piece of legislation, House Bill 433, would require that people who are suspected of child abuse be promptly told about the investigation results. This measure is meant to balance other proposals that would change the way child abuse is defined in Pennsylvania.

A third bill would do away with separate substantiation standards for school employees accused of child abuse.

It is hoped that these and other measures will help to prevent some of the worst types of crimes committed against children and other vulnerable people. Victims of sex abuse and other violent crimes deserve full justice, both in criminal court and civil court.

If Pennsylvania residents would like to learn more about civil laws related to sex abuse, our Philadelphia sexual abuse site is there to help. 

Source: pennlive.com, "Pennsylvania State House passes several child protection measures by overwhelming margins," Charles Thompson, June 20, 2013

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