Penn State Scandal Sparks Conversation in the Missouri Legislature
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Penn State Scandal Sparks Conversation in the Missouri Legislature

Date: January 23, 2012
By: Rebecca May
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers heard public testimony on a bill making it illegal for a regular citizen to witness child sexual abuse and not report it.  In light of the Penn State scandal, one senator decided to reevaluate Missouri's law on child abuse.

The current law hasn't been modified since 1975. It states that only teachers, nurses, members of the clergy and a few other professions are legally obligated to report child abuse.

Senate bill 457 would make failing to report child sex abuse would be a class A misdemeanor with a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the measure is about protecting kids.

"It's about bringing to prosecution the people who are sexually abusing those kids. So if this is a way, a focused way, of bringing those folks to justice, I think we ought to do it."

Should the bill pass, Missouri would join the 18 other states that require child abuse reporting by any individual. 

Advocacy groups such as Missouri KidsFirst spoke in favor of the bill, but wants to continue the push for helping sexually abused children.  The group says the bill should be the beginning but by no means the end all on laws regarding sexual abuse.

The Senate committee did not hear from any members of the public who were against the bill. A vote was not taken and has yet to be scheduled.

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