BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The alleged cover-up at Penn State could lead to tougher laws here in Maryland. Right now, failing to report child abuse is only punishable by a fine.
Adam May speaks to local lawmakers and child abuse advocates about the potential changes.
You might think a stronger law wouldn’t be too controversial but one lawmaker accused the teachers’ union of putting predators before pupils.
Penn State officials knew about child sex abuse allegations but failed to tell authorities. Now Maryland State Senator Nancy Jacobs wants to make failing to report child abuse a crime but she blames teacher unions for standing in the way.
“I think it’s a matter of protecting their own and I’m just astounded that the teachers’ union would protect a pedophile,” Jacobs said.
“Absolutely, it’s outrageous,” said Sean Johnson, State Education Association.
The State Education Association accuses Jacobs of politicizing a tragedy but they admit they’re not sure if they support criminal penalties.
“I think it’s difficult to legislate by headlines. I don’t know what that legislation would look like,” Johnson said.
Current Maryland law requires health practitioners, police officers, educators and social workers to notify a law enforcement agency. Under that current law, teachers who don’t report could lose their jobs but they would not face criminal charges.
“I think this is something long overdue,” said Adam Rosenberg, Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
The Baltimore Child Abuse Center supports Jacobs’ plan.
“What happened at Penn State is a public example of what’s happening in Maryland, where people witness abuse and they don’t report it,” Rosenberg said.
Details of the bill are still being worked out. In some states, failing to report abuse can lead to six months in jail.
The teachers’ union says current laws are effective, leading to numerous abuse reports.