ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — For years, advocates have pushed for stricter safeguards against child abuse or neglect.
Failure by officials to report suspected abuse or neglect as required by law now carries jail time and fines.
The change comes in the wake of a notorious case of a former teachers aide in Prince George’s County, who in 2016 was indicted on 270 counts related to the sexual abuse of more than a dozen children at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School.
Deonte Carraway is now serving 75 years in prison for sexually exploiting children. Some students had reportedly gone to teachers about it, but nothing would be done.
“Two years ago, (then-county state’s attorney) Angela Alsobrooks testified on these hearings in Annapolis that when the Deonte Carraway case came up in Prince George’s County, she had no remedy to hold those professionals accountable,” said Adam Rosenburg with the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
That changed in October. Maryland law now holds adults, including teachers, youth workers, healthcare personnel and others, responsible for filing written reports under penalty of law.
Failure to comply carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“The child would say ‘This just happened to me,’ and the adult in authority wouldn’t do anything about it there,” Rosenburg said. “By not reporting the abuse, children continued to be abused and bad people continue to get away with it.”
It has long been a pervasive problem throughout the state.
“Along with prosecutors, there were a number of child advocates, lawmakers, individuals who cared about these issues that saw fit to bring Maryland into alignment with the rest of the nation. Forty-eight states up until now had held their professionals accountable when they failed to report abuse. We saw it necessary to make that same statement.” Rosenburg said.
For years, these advocates had been making changes to strengthen the mandated reporting system, and this was the last gap to close to enforce accountability.
In 2016, Maryland passed Erin’s Law, which teaches students, teachers and parents to recognize signs of child sex abuse.
“We trust that they’re going to watch our kids and look out for them to make sure they’re not hurt on the playground, that they’re getting the best education possible,” Rosenburg said.