After Penn State, Prince William delegate wants expanded reporting rules

Students light candles at a vigil for victims of child sex abuse at Penn State.

In the wake of the abuse scandal at Penn State, a Virginia official wants to change the Commonwealth's rules about who is required to report sexual abuse.

The laws on reporting child abuse vary from state to state. Some states, like Maryland, mandate everyone to report suspected cases. Others list specific professions that must report. In Virginia, that includes including teachers and other school employee, animal control officers.

“But it doesn't say 'coach,' it doesn't say 'athletic director' and if I were a defense attorney in court, I'd say, look, the legislature knows what it's doing, presumably, and didn't use these words, therefore, there's no obligation placed here,” said Prince William Delegate Robert Marshall (R).

Marshall has introduced two bills in the general assembly. One would specifically require public and private school coaches and athletic directors to report suspected abuse. It would also, for the first time, include institutions of higher education: Colleges and universities.

The other bill would mandate reporting by coaches and directors of private sports teams and organizations like community recreational leagues.

“When they get the job, they're expected to protect those children, too, on their own time,” resident Gary Sprouse said.

“I'm getting really tired of hearing this every day, and people covering up. It makes you sick to your stomach,” said Centreville resident Marcia Hoffmaster.

Failure to report an incident within 72 hours currently carries up to a $500 fine in Virginia. Subsequent failures carry a fine of up to $1,000.

The other question is to whom those coaches, teachers or other professionals should report suspected abuse. To the police, child welfare agencies, their supervisor? That, too, depends on area laws.