State law should prevent the child abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State from happening in Kentucky. (Associated Press photo: Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, assistant coach Mike McQueary and quarterback Mike McGloin.)
Unlike in Pennsylvania, where people are only required to report sexual abuse to a supervisor, in Kentucky suspected abuse must be reported to police, prosecutors or Child Protective Services. If a person fails to report it, that constitutes a crime, reports Andrew Wolfson of The Courier-Journal. "Telling your boss in Kentucky doesn't take you off the hook," said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. "We don't let folks in Kentucky wash their hands of abuse."
Interest in the law has surfaced since a graduate assistant Paterno "saw former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky raping a boy in a shower in 2002 and told Paterno about it rather than alerting authorities," Wolfson reports. Paterno told his athletic director, but not police or other authorities. He was fired Nov. 9.
Advocates believe the Kentucky law "shows that we are all responsible," said Dan Fox, president of Family and Children's Place, a nonprofit counseling agency. Kentucky is one of 18 states with such a law. Those who fail to report abuse can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine, though prosecution is relatively rare. There were just 57 cases filed with the Administrative Office of the Courts since 2006. One case involved a Bed Bath & Beyond store, which was charged in 2008 after it didn't help a couple who had found a toddler locked in a hot van in the parking lot. The manager said getting involved was against store policy.
Kentucky had twice as many reported child-abuse cases as Pennsylvania 2009, though it has just one-third the number of children. That difference is believed to stem from the reporting laws of the two states, not because abuse or neglect is less common in Kentucky, Wolfson reports.