New York state Sen. Sue Serino said she was horrified after learning an abuse case involving a scout troop went unreported to law enforcement — and that no one in the organization was required to report it.
After that case in the Hudson Valley, Serino proposed legislation that would expand reporting requirements.
"So many parents think that when you bring your child, whether it's a basketball game or a Boy Scouts group, that you're entrusting your children to that person," Serino said. "But if there's any type of abuse going on, they are not mandated reporters."
Serino is sponsoring legislation that would expand requirements for reporting suspected and observed child abuse cases. Under current law, reporting to law enforcement is only required when the suspected abuse involves a family member. Serino's bill would also expand training for those 18 and older who work directly with kids to recognize abuse.
"Education is key to prevention and this is exactly that," Serino said. "There should be training involved as well, especially when you're entrusting your children to people when you're not around."
Ryan McCall, an attorney with the Albany law firm Tully Rinckey, said training to recognize abuse is key for mandated reporters, especially if requirements change.
"A lot of times, professionals aren't aware of 'what do I need to do?' 'What is an example of something I need to report?'" McCall said. "Those are the things that may lead to some confusion."
McCall, who specializes in cases involving families, said the proposed expansion of requirements could be a considerable.
"I think for a lot of teachers or other reporters, it may not be that big of an expansion, but for certain reporters who want to make sure they are doing everything by the book, it's definitely going to be a major change," he said.
The bill also lays out penalties for people who fail to make good faith efforts in reporting abuse, including a misdemeanor criminal charge.
"They themselves can face potential legal pitfalls either with the licensing department of New York state, or the New York State Department of Education or the Office of Professions," McCall said.
Serino hopes her bill can be approved by the end of the legislative session.