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Proposed Law Calls For Tougher Penalties For Unreported Child Abuse

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—The sex abuse scandal at Penn State has legislators around the country looking to strengthen their laws. Here in Maryland, the changes include possible jail time for those who fail to report the sexual or physical abuse of children.

Mike Schuh has more on what happens when abuse is not reported.

Seven-year-old Shameer Hudson from the Eastern Shore and the Penn State scandal are related.

Shameer’s teacher reported the cuts and bruises she saw on Shameer to authorities. His adopted mother was investigated 24 times–and cleared each time.

“And at that point in time we knew something horrible was going to happen, and I said one of them is going to die,” said Dianne Raine, Shameer’s teacher.

Saying she was harassed, the mom put her three kids in a private school. No abuse reports ever surfaced again.

“Instead, Mrs. Hudson beat Shameer to death,” said Joel Todd, Worchester County prosecutor.

Maryland law didn’t force that headmaster to report abuse.

“But because no report was made, these children were sent home where one of them was beaten to death,” Todd said.

At Penn State, alleged abuse was reported but it never made it to investigators. Legislators saw what happened there and looked at our own abuse reporting laws.

“And what we need in Maryland is some teeth to that,” said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford County.

So in committee on Wednesday, Jacobs introduced a bill that says if you don’t report abuse, it’s considered a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

But Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery County, doesn’t want to threaten teachers and doctors with jail time, but with large fines.

“We’re all on the same side here,” Raskin said. “We’re trying to do whatever we can to stop child abuse and make sure it’s reported.”

Penn State alumni have flooded Jacobs with calls and email. They’re angry that the nickname for her bill is their college.

“It’s not titled anything to do with Penn State,”Jacobs said. “It’s titled Child Abuse and Failure To Report.”

The bill was introduced Wednesday but has to get out of committee before it can proceed.

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