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Feb 092015
 

In recent years, Pennsylvania child sex abuse reporting law has come under a microscope. This is due to two major child sexual abuse scandals. First, there was the Philadelphia priest sexual abuse scandal which resulted in a high level priest being convicted of endangering a child. That case is still pending the local District Attorney’s appeal after an appellate court overturned the conviction. Second, there was the Sandusky Penn State scandal which involved prolific abuse of children over the course of literally decades. Then, there have been multiple cases of teachers and other educators sexually abusing students.

Part of the problem of institutional child sex abuse is the knee-jerk reaction to cover up reports of abuse. The reality is that when faced with investigations and attention over something as egregious as child sex abuse, those in charge often take actions designed to protect the institution. Historically, Pennsylvania’s child sex abuse reporting law has certainly failed to prevent this from occurring and instead created confusion which in turn, allowed institutional child abuse to continue.

In 2014, Pennsylvania’s legislature finally enacted much needed changes to the child abuse reporting law. One of the most significant changes is the enumeration of classes of persons required to report child abuse and child sex abuse. Below are the current and prior versions of the statute. The current text is highlighted in blue, and the prior text is highlighted in grey.

Section (a) – Who is a Mandatory Reporter?

23 Pa. C.S. Section 6311 (Current Version) Persons required to report suspected child abuse.

(a) Mandated reporters.–The following adults shall make a report of suspected child abuse, subject to subsection (b), if the person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse:

(1) A person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State.
(2) A medical examiner, coroner or funeral director.
(3) An employee of a health care facility or provider licensed by the Department of Health, who is engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of individuals.
(4) A school employee.
(5) An employee of a child-care service who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
(6) A clergyman, priest, rabbi, minister, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer or spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization.
(7) An individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child.
(8) An employee of a social services agency who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
(9) A peace officer or law enforcement official.
(10) An emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health.
(11) An employee of a public library who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
(12) An individual supervised or managed by a person listed under paragraphs (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10) and (11), who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
(13) An independent contractor.
(14) An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization or other entity, including a school or regularly established religious organization that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or control of children.
(15) A foster parent.

Prior Version

23 Pa. C.S. Section 6311 (Old Version) Persons required to report suspected child abuse.

(a) General Rule.– A person who, in the course of employment, occupation or practice of a profession, comes into contact with children shall report or cause a report to be made in accordance with section 6313 (relating to reporting procedure) when the person has reasonable cause to suspect, on the basis of medical, professional or other training and experience, that a child under the care, supervision, guidance or training of that person or of an agency, institution, organization or other entity with which that person is affiliated is a victim of child abuse, including child abuse by an individual who is not a perpetrator. Except with respect to confidential communications made to a member of the clergy which are protected under 42 Pa. C.S. Section 5943 (relating to confidential communications to clergymen), and except with respect to confidential communications made to an attorney which are protected by 42 Pa. C.S. Section 5916 (relating to confidential communications to attorney) or 5928 (relating to confidential communications to attorney), the privileged communication between any professional person required to report and the patient or client of that person shall not apply to situations involving child abuse and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this chapter.

Section (b) – Basis to Report

(b) Basis to report. (1)  A mandated reporter enumerated in subsection (a) shall make a report of suspected child abuse in accordance with section 6313 (relating to reporting procedure), if the mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse under any of the following circumstances:
(i)  The mandated reporter comes into contact with the child in the course of employment, occupation and practice of a profession or through a regularly scheduled program, activity or service.(ii)  The mandated reporter is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child, or is affiliated with an agency, institution, organization, school, regularly established church or religious organization or other entity that is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child.
(iii)  A person makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that an identifiable child is the victim of child abuse.

(iv)  An individual 14 years of age or older makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that the individual has committed child abuse.

(2)  Nothing in this section shall require a child to come before the mandated reporter in order for the mandated reporter to make a report of suspected child abuse.

(3)  Nothing in this section shall require the mandated reporter to identify the person responsible for the child abuse to make a report of suspected child abuse.

Prior Version

(b) Enumeration of persons required to report. Persons required to report under subsection (a) include, but are not limited to, any licensed physician, osteopath, medical examiner, coroner, funeral director, dentist, optometrist, chiropractor, podiatrist, intern, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of a person, Christian Science practitioner, member of the clergy, school administrator, school teacher, school nurse, social services worker, day-care center worker or any other child-care or foster-care worker, mental health professional, peace officer or law enforcement official.

Section (c) –  Staff Members

(c) Staff members of institutions, etc. Whenever a person is required to report under subsection (b) in the capacity as a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, that person shall report immediately in accordance with section 6313 and shall immediately thereafter notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge. Upon notification, the person in charge or the designated agent, if any, shall facilitate the cooperation of the institution, school, facility or agency with the investigation of the report. Any intimidation, retaliation or obstruction in the investigation of the report is subject to the provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 4958 (relating to intimidation, retaliation or obstruction in child abuse cases). This chapter does not require more than one report from any such institution, school, facility or agency.

Prior Version

(c) Staff members of institutions, etc. Whenever a person is required to report under subsection (b) in the capacity as a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, that person shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge.  Upon notification, the person in charge or the designated agent, if any, shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be made in accordance with section 6313.  This chapter does not require more than one report from any such institution, school, facility or agency. 

Section (b) – Civil Liability

(d)  Civil action for discrimination against person filing report.–(Deleted by amendment).

Prior Version

(d) Civil action for discrimination against person filing report.–A person who, under this section, is required to report or cause a report of suspected child abuse to be made and who, in good faith, makes or causes the report to be made and, as a result thereof, is discharged from his employment or in any other matter is discriminated against with respect to compensation, hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, may commence an action in the court of common pleas of the county in which the alleged unlawful discharge or discrimination occurred for appropriate relief.  If the court finds that the person is an individual who, under this section, is required to report or cause a report of suspected child abuse to be made and who, in good faith, made or caused to be made a report of suspected child abuse and, as a result thereof, was discharged or discriminated against with respect to compensation, hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, it may issue an order granting appropriate relief, including, but not limited to, reinstatement with back pay.  The department may intervene in any action commenced under this section. 

 Posted by on February 9, 2015 Latest News